Exclusive: Draya Michele Gets A New Gig As A Clothing Designer
Draya Michele is right on time for our mid-day (my time)/morning (her time) phone call. This seems like a standard “duh”, moment right? Like, you showed up for work on time today and no one said anything about it in the introduction of an article about you. Don't be bitter! It's not cute. Considering that I spend a disproportionate amount of time waiting for talent who is either, being wrangled, smoking, not interested in press or just plain late, this is quite exciting to me.
Draya is on time, as she is the consummate professional. She values schedules and time management better than some CEOs and since she wears many hats, she actually doesn’t have a lot of it.
Yesterday, Draya’s latest collection in collaboration with L.A. based brand, superdown launched. The mom of two already has built a booming swimwear business, supported by the likes of famous fans like Kylie Jenner, Christina Milian and Zendaya, serious clout as a social media influencer and an express nail salon in the Valley. She’s busy.
Draya has been working with Revolve for several years in a collaborative capacity, accompanying the brand on their now signature round-the-world trips which serve as both a parade of the hottest women of Instagram and as a makeshift conceptual fashion show for the designers they sell. But now, of course, Draya is taking the reigns as the HBIC, overseeing everything from the production to the colorways to the fabrication for Revolve’s youngest brand, superdown.
Draya and I caught up over the phone to chat design strategies, Rihanna and girdles, you know, as one does.
BET: How do you manage to have so many jobs?
Draya Michele: Um, well time management is definitely a factor. I'm very organized. Everything just kind of goes by priority. My kids and my relationship come first. So after I'm done handling my mom and wife duties, then I make time for work.
BET: How did this collaboration come about? What made you decide that you wanted to design?
DM: Well, I've been working with revolve for two years. Love, love, love them at this point we’re like family. We’ve been all over the world together. When they said that they were going to start superdown, I wanted in. Any, any, anything they wanted me to do with that, I was willing to do. And when they asked me to do the collab, I was so excited. I was ecstatic. They explained to me that it wouldn't just be a one off collab, it would be a monthly drop for like the next five months. And I was just like, Oh my God! Like that's even better than what I thought.
BET: How did you approach the design process?
DM: As far as the design process, I mean, I wanted to make stuff that I felt really, really comfortable in, but also still felt really sexy. And um, I wanted things that looked like they were expensive but actually aren't going to be expensive. And I tried every piece on myself. I videoed every piece. I photographed and actually printed out every picture of every piece just because I wanted to see every single angle of the pieces before I added them to my collection. I wanted to make sure I fully, fully loved them all. And I do.
BET: You mentioned on Instagram this collection comes in “six sizes”. What does that mean? Why was sizing important to you?
DM: Sometimes people are different sizes in different pieces of clothing. I know for, one, I am! If it doesn't have stretch, I’m a small, if it does have stretch, I'm an extra small. I wanted to just give people that option. The two pick which size they felt more comfortable and because small, medium and large, that that's just not enough.
BET: Tell me a bit about your personal fashion journey.
DM: Well, I can definitely say that I evolved. I used to want to wear designer pieces. Um, mainly because, you know, I couldn't always afford them growing up. So as soon as I got a little bit of means to be able to buy some, I would get it and I would find that, you know, this doesn't really fit me. It doesn't really compliment me. Because you know, I’m not built like a supermodel and too often they don't include stretch. I mean stretch is my best friend. So I learned that, you know, stretch is an inexpensive material. And usually clothes that have stretch are more affordable. So that's what I kept in mind when designing, I wanted girls to be comfortable. I want the girls to be able to grow a little bit, you know, I wanted them to be able to wear the same piece even if, you know, they put them on a couple pounds from the last year when they bought it because it has stretch and it is forgiving. I picked pieces that girls were able to wear shape wear underneath because you know, there's a lot of these weird like cut dresses with unique cutouts in places and you can't wear shape wear with it. And I'm a big believer in shape wear. I wear shape wear under a lot of my stuff. I also keep that in mind when I'm purchasing things like, can I wear my Spanx? Can I wear my girdle under this? You know, like, and that helps a selling point for me.
BET: So did your style change after you became a mom?
DM: Tah-da. That's where the shape where it comes in. I mean after, after having a baby everybody's so hooked on snapping back and getting back to their pre-baby body. I'm not going to lie. I was like that. It was important to me to get back to the way that I was before I had my baby. Shapewear definitely helped with that. After you give birth, you know, they recommend wearing a girdle just to kinda tighten your stomach back up and get your skin and your organs to go back into place. [3 years ago] I wore my girdle and I just really, now I've gotten so used to it. I just really liked the way that it makes me feel. It gives me posture, it holds me in. I just like it. I feel like my clothes look better when I wear it. So the things that I wear are often based on [if] I can wear my girdle with this. I love a high-waisted situation because I can wear my girdle and because it can be more forgiving in the waist area. I love bodycon dresses because I love to be able to, you know, to see my hourglass shape under it.
BET: Speaking of hourglass shape…you don’t have a typical model body. How do you feel that affects your place in the fashion industry?
DM: Well, you know, I'm here. You are absolutely right. This type of body style that I have, a curvier body, is not always accepted. But it is a body style and it does need to be recognized. [Designers] do dress me and I just know to pick the right things. When I'm looking through the rack of clothes, I can see that everything is super tiny and it doesn't scare me. I still select the best things that are going to fit my body style. I go right for the things that have stretch. I'm not gonna lie. And I don't get butt hurt if there isn't something that works. If something doesn't work, it's okay. Maybe it'll just be a top and maybe I just wear my own jeans from home. It’s not the end of the world. I'm not going to like squeeze myself into something that doesn't look great just to fit in with the front row because everyone's wearing the designer of the fashion show that we're at.
BET: You’re the queen of high-low mixing. Do you think that there is a pressure to only wear designer clothes when you are in the public eye?
DM: I just feel like I wear what I like. I don't wear what costs money because that's not what makes me like it. What makes me like things are the fit, the color, the style. So, if a dress costs $40, I'm okay with that. I'm more willing to buy a dress that costs $40 than a dress that costs $800. Those [are the] pieces that I regretted buying throughout the years. I don't have any emotional attachment to them. And I get rid of them. I sell them on like consignment websites and stuff because I don't love them.
BET: So MintSwim already has a ton of famous fans. Who would you love to see in your superdown clothes?
DM: Um, I would say Rihanna. That would be like, whoa, I die. I die. I just really love her style. I just think it's so good. No matter what she wears, whether she's like casual, like airport style, like her airport is like top-notch. My airport looks a mess. You would think I might have the flu. And her airport [looks are] just so chic.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.