LOS ANGELES — Marie and Kelly Gray, the mother-daughter duo and former head designer and chief executive officer of St. John, respectively, have launched a new company called Grayse. The casual luxury line, retailing between $200 and $1,100, will be introduced at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue on Feb. 1.
Marie and her husband, the late Robert “Bob” Gray, founded St. John in 1962, growing it into one of the largest global brands in Southern California, while Kelly became its ceo and the face of its iconic print ads.
Bob retired in 2002; Marie and Kelly stepped down from their day-to-day roles in 2005 and have acted as consultants at St. John since 2007. Marie continues to sit on the board and the family retains a minority stake in the privately held company.
In the years since leaving full-time jobs at St. John, Kelly founded the lifestyle label Royal Underground with Nikki Sixx, bass player for Mötley Crüe and Sixx:A.M. She decided to step away from the line when she started Grayse, while Sixx will continue with Royal Underground.
Meanwhile, Marie was spending most of her days on the golf course. But she never lost the design bug and found herself becoming more involved in her daughter’s line. The seeds of a new company took root when mother and daughter realized how much they enjoyed working together again.
“The minute we started bouncing things off each other we go kinetic, like we have a combustible energy,” said Kelly, who added that their aim to do design is something “completely different from St. John.” To that end, there is not a single knit piece in the collection. The focus is on separates, with tops and dresses featuring high-tech embellishments, laser-cut Italian leathers and innovative woven fabrics.
“I’ve always loved a sequin,” said Kelly, “but there have been so many advances in technology. I spent a lot of time in Asia sourcing heat epoxy transfer stones and other treatments.” The results are studs that look like Lucite and thin metal plates that look like patent leather, giving the classic shapes a modern sparkle.
The line, which sits in what Kelly calls the “fun luxury” price point, “presents as a special occasion line but is not necessarily eveningwear or red carpet. It’s more event dressing for book parties, luncheons, pool parties. There are no more rules of what to wear here and there anymore.”
While the Grayse woman likes glamour and sex appeal, there are no head-to-toe gold looks here. Styles range from a pink embellished minidress to a gold short-sleeve leather jacket paired with a studded mesh tank and softly tailored dark tan shorts. “It doesn’t have to be loud because it’s full of rich textures and colors,” said Marie. “We think this will appeal to some customers we’ve known and we hope to meet some new ones.”
To that end, the Grays, who were known for their personal approach with customers that earned St. John a cult following, plan to build the same type of relationship, beginning with their retailers.
“We intentionally kept this under wraps since starting it last summer,” said Kelly. “We wanted to strip it down to the dirt and work our way back to the customer starting with the retailers. Until now, they’ve only gotten a few photos, and this month we are doing sales associate breakfasts across the country. We are old school in that we recognize your sales associate is your direct line to the customer and if they get your message, it can be conveyed seamlessly.”
“We’re having a good time,” said Marie of coming out of semiretirement to work with her daughter again. There’s now a greater appreciation for one another’s talents.”
“I can’t imagine the torture I put Mom through when I was learning the business and thought I knew what I was doing when I didn’t,” said Kelly.
In addition to Neimans and Saks, the line will also sell on mkgrayse.com. As for future Grayse stores, “The aesthetic side of me says yes and the business side of me says, ‘Hell, no.’ I remember how hard it is to make money at them so I’m not sure,” said Kelly.
Exclusive: Nicola Formichetti is parting ways with @diesel after nearly four years. Formichetti, who served as Lady Gaga’s stylist in 2009, joined Diesel in 2013 as creative and artistic director. His first show debuted in Venice with a show held at the Venetian Arsenal. #wwdfashion #wwdnews
The polo shirt - an icon of preppy style - is roaring back into fashion in many creative guises, like this A-line polyester top from @carven, worn with @31philliplim cotton and elastane pants. Designers stretched a fashion classic into all kinds of new permutations this season. See how @mayteallende styled the preppy trend on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📸 : Kinya)
(Market Editors: @andrew_shang and @elmercer, Makeup: @amandawilsonmakeup using @fentybeauty, Hair: @gonn24, Model: @bara_holotova at @women360mgmt)
“I do like period [projects] a lot because I like creating those worlds, a world that is different from today," costume designer Mark Bridges said about the '50s British couture featured in @phantomthread. Bridges created the overall aesthetic and individual fashion looks for the film, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps. Pictured here is a gown he designed for Krieps who plays Alma – the love interest of Day-Lewis' character, Reynolds Woodcock. #wwdfashion
@prada is embracing the holiday season with a series of short movies about the art of gift-giving. "The Postman's Gifts", which was directed by American filmmaker Autumn de Wilde, focuses on the brand's signature Prada Galleria bag and features Elijah Wood as the postman. In the first two episodes, Wood's delivers the iconic bag to @emmaroberts, who plays herself as a movie star, and Sasha Frolova. #wwdfashion
“I think I never met the person while we were working,” Vicky Krieps said of Daniel Day-Lewis, who she plays the love interest of in “Phantom Thread.” Day-Lewis remained perennially in character, so much so that she feels she’s just meeting him now. “It’s interesting to see how different he is in real life to the character,” Krieps said. WWD sat down with the 34-year-old actress to talk about her new role in the period film, which brings the fifties’ gender dynamics into the mix. Read more on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
@gucci has expanded its “Places” project to include six new cities. The initiative, which was first unveiled in July, aims to invite people to explore inspirational locations for the brand. On the list is the Biblioteca Angelica library in Rome pictured here. See the other five new venues on WWD.com. #wwdfashion (📷: @massimo_listri_official)
#ad From tools to lashes, WWD rounded up wellness and beauty products guaranteed to take your skin care and makeup routines to the next level in 2018. Follow along as @laceandleatherbyelyse, @ashnfashn and @elleisalwayshere experiment with these products on their Instagram profiles and blogs. #NewYearBetterYou
Blogger @camilacoelho is one of the fastest growing beauty influencers around the world. The bilingual blogger has worked with brands like @revolve Beauty, @dior, @louisvuitton and more and has an Earned Media Value of $34,338,441, according to @tribedynamics. But Coelho isn’t the only influencer making a major impact — head to WWD.com to see the other fastest-growing influencers in six key global markets. #beautyfridays (📷: @zefashioninsider)