Kelly Gray knows style. The model-turned-designer spent her teens and 20s starring as the face of her parents’ luxury knitwear brand St. John before taking over as CEO at age 29. When she wasn’t busy making strides as the youngest female president at the New York Stock Exchange, she was crafting edgy menswear alongside Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx.
Gray and her mother, Marie, founded womenswear company Grayse in 2014, dreaming up sleek, shimmery dresses, jackets, and tops for their flagship store on El Paseo.
What trends will we see this upcoming season?
Post-COVID lifestyles are different. We’re seeing people really cling on to the glamorized soft dressing, the athleisure. I call it “glam leisure.” [Yet] people are really dressing up for events again.
We’re finally starting to see the trend of glamorous gowns and cocktail dresses come back.
In the past, people were always looking for the newest way to dress for evening: tuxedos, pantsuits. Now, I think it’s been a long time since people have been able to celebrate traditional weddings. I would say that traditional glam is what I’m seeing a lot of people lean towards.
Pre-COVID, people were very obsessed with having the “it” piece of every moment. I think that it’s lovely to see people relax and enjoy fashion the way they did decades ago in, say, the ’90s. [In] the ’90s … and the early 2000s, when the supermodels were reigning, everything was so sexy and fabulous. That was probably my favorite time in fashion, where you could pull [on] a Chanel mini skirt and a white men’s boyfriend shirt, and it looked so sexy. It’s nice to see that come back.
How are you melding those trends with the classic Grayse aesthetic?
I’ve been working on a lot of mixtures of sheer, solid, and sequin embellishment [and] working with a lot of nude and crystal. I think that’s our updated point of view: working on a nude base. A lot of our sequined fabrics are [sparkles] adorned onto modal T-shirt fabric. You feel like you’re wearing a lightweight, soft T-shirt, but when you walk by the mirror, you realize you’re very sequined and ready to go out for New Year’s.
You’re semi-retired and now living in Las Vegas. How have these changes influenced your work as a designer?
My lifestyle has changed dramatically since I’ve moved to Las Vegas. I’d have to say I have a far better understanding of desert fashion today than I did years ago. Actually [moving] to a desert, [having] to live in the heat and the extreme, it definitely changes you. I’ve found myself more drawn to color. I do a lot of “fancy tracksuits.” They’re printed tracksuits that I can wear to a club dinner or a luncheon and on an airplane. As a user, not a designer, I’m looking for things that [allow me to] wear the same outfit to two or three different types of events, whether they be daywear or eveningwear.
My lifestyle was all about work most of my life. Now that I don’t work as much as I did in years past, my needs and my lifestyle have changed to be more similar to my clients. I think I’m more connected to my clients now than I ever was.
Speaking of your clients, how would you describe the Grayse woman?
Confident, sexy, fun. She loves to have fun. Our clients all have that in common. They all like to party, and they have a good time wherever they go — they are the party.
What do you love most about what you do?
The best moment for me is in the fitting room. [I love] making women look beautiful, seeing the smile that comes to their eyes when they know they look their best.