Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design senior Jessica Gray remembers having a passion for fashion when she was just a child.
The Detroit native would put on fashion shows for her family, and often talked about her desire to become a model. Her grandmothers loved luxury brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Stuart Weitzman, and took Gray on shopping trips to fashion behemoths like Neiman Marcus.
Gray decided to take those childhood dreams and transform them into her life’s work.
The art and design major, who specializes in photography and fashion design, launched her own haute couture-inspired sportswear line last year. Named Gersai Collections, it’s inspired by Detroit and Gray’s experiences in the city.
“There’s this fascination about Detroit being this abandoned city, and me coming from here, I’m like, this is not all that this city is about, Gray said. “This city is way greater than what people have attributed to it.”
At U-M, Gray served as the creative director of the arts awareness student organization EnspiRED, orchestrating the theme of the group’s annual charity fashion show and photo shoots.
Last year she participated in a photography workshop with Michigan inmates and collaborated with an inmate to take photos he wanted to capture in Detroit.
After leaving U-M, Gray plans to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design to study luxury brand management. She wants to be an entrepreneur, and a brand manager and creative consultant for luxury fashion brands or her own line.
“Fashion is the first thing that you can see before you can even speak to someone,” Gray said. “That’s the first notion of their personality that you can see before you sit down and talk to them. That’s what I like about fashion most. It speaks about me and I don’t even have to say anything.”