Dynamic American menswear designer, Raymond Vincent Brown with over 25 years of experience in the world of fashion, is making great impact with his Ray Vincente label. Through his eclectic styles and unusual selection of colours, Raymond has clothed a few new music acts in the States and is looking forward to do more in the New Year.
He likes to place concepts together from unrelated sources into a look that is cohesive and interesting – therefore not surprising that his designs are easily mistakable to be African. His philosophy of style is all about being individualistic in your look. He believes that your look should represent who you are in each setting; from the boardroom to the ‘red carpet’ you should dress appropriately but always display your personal style.
Raymond hopes to take his creations beyond the US and into ‘untapped markets’ such as Africa. I spoke with the talented designer about his works, aspirations, trends and plans for Africa.
Ameyaw Debrah: What inspired you to get into fashion/designing?
It almost seems to be an innate characteristic. I’m told that even as a child I always had my own sense of style and loved to create looks that were different than what I saw. I initially started as a model but that wasn’t where my passion was centered. I found myself just putting clothing pieces together and then, after having been taught how to sew by my sister, I started designing my own looks. In short, I guess my main inspiration to enter the field was my desire to display my individualistic personality
The originality of the late Willi Smith, the creativity of Ann Demeulemeister, the functional clothing of Donna Karan, the eclectic nature of Yohji Yamamoto, and the luxury of Oscar De La Renta
Ameyaw Debrah: What type of clothing do you do?
Menswear, specifically focusing on daywear separates and well as some evening items. I initially started out as a womenswear designer mainly creating performance ensembles for my sister who is a classical singer. From there I moved to creating one-of-a-kind pieces for private individuals for various events, still in womenswear and eventually created a line of business separates for women. I’d always had the desire to create a menswear line because I felt there was so little out there that was interesting for men, especially here in the States, but I could not come up with a concept I really liked. One day I was having a conversation with my sister and she stated “Ray, everybody likes the way you dress, why do you do that!” It was as if a beam of light hit me and so I went into it thinking “If I were shopping for clothing, what would I like to see?” Thus, the Ray Vincente Menswear line was born! I haven’t looked back since. The first highlight was seeing the reaction of the audience when I first displayed the line. They knew they were seeing something very different!
The biggest challenge has been getting people to develop a different perspective on menswear. For so long in the states menswear was a lot of the same with very little room for different or unique ideas. The line has been out for about 3 years now and I am beginning to see the opening of the ‘minds’ of male shoppers who are beginning to like the idea of dressing in a different way
Ameyaw Debrah: What is your clientele base like?
In general the client base is males 25 – up, multiple ethnic groups, median economic level. This has been one of the most interesting developments for the menswear line. Last year I began marketing online and to my surprise my first customers were from overseas! I found myself mailing clothing to places like Sweden, Russia, Switzerland, etc. Each customer would remark about how unique the clothing was designed. More recently the West Coast of the US has begun to ‘get on board’ so I am selling pieces there as well. I’m just now beginning to reach out to markets that we in the States don’t see much but that are very active markets. It is here where I see more and more opportunity so I will continue to do so.
Ameyaw Debrah: What’s your opinion on African fashion?
Approximately 2 years ago, I became more familiar with African fashion. I was amazed that there was an entire segment of the fashion field that I’d never really seen. Even now I am still learning. Oddly enough when I look at the work of designers in Africa I see elements of my own designs in their work in areas of color, drape, and fabrics! At times there is such a real connection where it feels like ‘kindred spirits’. I have definitely begun to incorporate African elements into my design and will continue to. I often wondered why I was so attracted to fabric draped in various ways in menswear and then I saw the African market! Also, I am attracted to the arrangements of color in the African market that is not seen much in the States. This celebration of color has found its way into even my current collection.
Ameyaw Debrah: Where do you get your materials from?
Varied places; I order fabrics online from various countries and also from the Eastern part of the US
Ameyaw Debrah: What were the hottest trends for men in 2010?
I’ve seen the return of a more fitted silhouette and a return to actually ‘dressing up’ when going out and about. Separates from multiple designer collections are being paired to create a distinct look and also the rise of accessories for men. Piecewise, I have created and seen more vests and wraps added to the wardrobe and more color being introduced into main pieces as opposed to just as accessories.
I believe we will see more men willing to ‘push the envelope’ in their personal style which, for designers like me, is a wonderful trend. More color, more accessories, more dressing up in things other than suits!
Ameyaw Debrah: What are the top must have accessories for a modern man of colour?
Colorful wraps, ties and hats; Printed vests (paisley, abstract prints); Individual style!
Ameyaw Debrah: Are you working on any new collection?
Yes, I am currently working on my 2011 Fall/Winter collection. It will be strong in plaid and striped prints/patterns. I come from a multicultural background so it will celebrate that legacy. The collection is called ‘7’ which is the biblical numeric for completeness and perfection. It will be based on 7 silhouettes configured in multiple was to give your wardrobe both versatility and a ‘kick’ of style. There will be a large amount of natural fibers such as cotton and wool. Colors will be chocolate brown, red, charcoal grey, blue, cream, green, and of course, black.
Ameyaw Debrah: What should we expect from Ray Vincente in coming years?
The building of a lifestyle brand to include formalwear and business wear. There will be an explosion of accessories as each year I add new and different pieces to this line and later a fragrance line.