By Megan Harman
A new Toronto-based e-commerce retailer, called Grayes, is on a mission to provide women with professional clothing that has personality, while supporting Canadian manufacturing.
Launched in 2016 by Stephanie Ray, Grayes specializes in trendy and flattering workwear essentials for women, all of which is designed, cut and sewn in factories in the Greater Toronto Area.
“I wanted to create pieces that allow women to express their personal style but that are still appropriate for the office,” says Ray. “Most importantly, I wanted to create workwear that women could feel like themselves in and be excited about wearing off duty too.”
A law school graduate, Ray was inspired to launch Grayes during her studies. When shopping for clothing to wear to interviews, presentations and networking events, she found that the majority of items were stiff and uncomfortable, and failed to reflect her personal style.
“I struggled to find work-appropriate pieces that I loved,” Ray says. “I felt forced into awkward suits with no personality when I wanted chic dresses, blazers and pants that could work in the office and after hours too.”
After graduating, Ray decided to launch Grayes to address this gap that she had identified in the womenswear market. The brand offers a variety of office-appropriate dresses, tops, pants and blazers, which incorporate trendy styles and can transition from day to night. The collection features predominantly neutral tones such as black and grey, and utilizes high-quality, durable fabrics.
“The inspiration for many of our designs comes from my own personal style and what was missing in the women’s workwear market – workwear with a point of view,” Ray says.
Grayes works exclusively with factories in the Greater Toronto Area.
“As a company based in Toronto, we really wanted production to be local so that we could ensure quality and oversee every part of the process,” says Ray. “Having our factory in such close proximity allows us to work directly with them to ensure quality and ethical conditions. It also means faster turnaround times.”
Ray admits that local manufacturing comes at a higher cost compared to other regions of the world. However, she says the advantages are well worth the additional cost.
“The higher cost of producing locally in Canada can definitely be challenging, but it’s something that we acknowledged from the start,” she says. “We firmly believe that you pay for the quality that you receive, and we think our customers agree that supporting Canadian-made is just as important to them as it is to us.”
Grayes pieces range in price from $175 to $395, and are available through its website at www.grayes.com. The company offers free shipping and returns, which resonates with its customers, according to Ray.
“Our target customers are professionals with busy lives who see the value and ease in having clothes sent to their home or office for them to try on,” she says. She expects the e-commerce industry to continue to grow as more Canadian consumers are embracing online shopping.
Grayes also engages its customers face-to-face through occasional events, such as pop-ups, trunk shows and female-oriented networking events. Currently, the company doesn’t have plans to expand its distribution to include brick and mortar stores.
“For the time being we are focusing on our online business and activating with pop-ups, trunk shows and other events,” Ray says. “But who knows what the future holds!”
**Photos featured on Grayes website. Additional photos of their current fashions can be found below.
Megan Harman is a business reporter based in Toronto. She writes about topics including retail, financial services and technology. Megan covers Toronto’s retail industry through her blog Retail Realm (torontoretail.wordpress.com). Follow her on Twitter at @meganmharman.