The Desray brand was born on Green Market Square with a modest stall and a handful of designs. This was my first lesson in designing – manufacturing and selling my own garments.
Alongside my fashionista mother, I then opened a boutique on Vineyard Road in Claremont called ‘Some Place Else’. Mom’s styling was very popular. Her eye was razor-sharp in identifying commercial bestsellers and I believe that our brand grew quickly because of that.
In 1995 we were the first designer to be invited to showcase our collection at the Young Designers Emporium. Being proudly South African all our lives, we were ecstatic to be part of this homegrown concept.
After 10 years at YDE, my brother Mike joined the business to help grow the business. Young Designer’s gave the brand great recognition, so it was almost a natural progression for us to move into the wholesale market. Wholesaling to roughly 75 boutiques around the country was challenging for several reasons, but our biggest problem was not being able to control how our clothes were being presented and sold to our customers. This factor led to the setting up of our first standalone store at The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock called Desray Style de Vie.
I opened my second store in Newlands, just down the road from where I live, and almost immediately Stellenbosch was launched. Since the initial three were opened we have successfully opened boutiques in Gardens, Franschhoek, Willowbridge, Parkhurst and Dainfern in Johannesburg and Menlyn Maine in Pretoria.
We pride ourselves in our turnaround time from design to in-store. We are a contradiction in some senses because we are 90% local yet manage to provide our customers with beautiful garments at international rates – up to five styles per week in the height of season. We believe in giving our ladies variety and exclusivity, with short runs, and we do not compromise on quality. There is nothing that makes me happier than making garments in natural fabrics that make you feel like you are as gorgeous and beautiful as you are.
The last 10 years have been a whirlwind but they have also been a fantastic ride. We hope to be blessed with the same growth over the next 10 years and would love to be recognised as one of South Africa’s favourite ladies fashion brands.