Meet Dr. Ray. A Clinical Psychologist Turned Fashion Designer, and Shapewear Entrepreneur Who’s Designed Clothing For President Obama.
From her career as a clinical psychologist/first responder, to walking the red carpet at the Grammys and designing for President Obama, Dr. Denyse Ray’s journey to building her fashion empire has definitely been a unique one. Ray, a resident of Hawaii who cites her mother as a major influence, is the founder and CEO of Lady Ease Wear. She is also the first African American woman to own a manufacturing company in Hawaii.
After retiring from the medical field, Ray first entered the fashion world by designing and marketing a line of washable, reusable face masks called Ease Mask. She was inspired to create the design after her experience as a first responder at the 9/11 attacks in New York City.
As Ray began to expand her design repertoire, she soon came to realize the importance of good foundation garments. She was prompted to create Mi Nudes, a unique, original line of shapewear, that offers special options for women of color.
Over the years Mi Nudes has been worn by celebrities on the red carpet at the Grammys, and the Oscars, as well as by models at New York Fashion Week. Mi Nudes even earned Ray an NAACP image award nomination.
In addition to offering a variety of styles and colors, Mi Nudes was designed with health and safety in mind.
According to Dr. Ray,
“The Lady Easewear line of Shapewear does not come with any warning labels or hidden damage components. [I brought my] research skills to the table and ensured that [my] product was harm free. No compression, No latex and No pain. Our objective was to shape your curves with comfort and we accomplished that.”
Despite her success, Dr. Ray acknowledges the hurdles that she had to overcome as emerging entrepreneur.
“[…] challenges did come in several areas, not finding a manufacturer in the US and no access to capital,” Ray says. “I overcame the manufacturing challenge by standing up my own factory and the no access to capital by exhausting my husband and my savings, retirement, and investments.”
“What manifested from those challenges and the persistence to overcome them was the legacy that will be left and the history that was made. That history would specifically be having been the first African American woman to own a manufacturing company in the state of Hawaii.”
In addition to working with celebrities, and fashion models, Dr. Ray has also designed pieces for President Obama. She created a version of the traditional Hawaiian “Aloha” shirt for Obama, paying homage to his home state. While the shirt usually features floral designs, Ray decided to give her design a global edge by using fabrics from Ghana, Senegal, Cambodia, and Indonesia.
“I was grateful that [President Obama’s] sister hand delivered me the fabric from Indonesia. The entire experience would serve to add to the legacy and the history,” says Ray. “I would now become the first African America woman designer/manufacturer to make shirts for the first African America President in the state of his birth, Hawaii.”
In addition to sourcing her fabrics from Asia and West Africa, Dr. Ray is currently in the process of going global with Lady Ease Wear, with expansions to Senegal, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire. She is also in the process of developing a line of lingerie and hosiery that will also offer more options for women of color.
While Dr. Ray has some major plans for the company, she admits that she is ultimately looking for a replacement.
“I have prepared a seat for some young woman to occupy in the very near future. A lot of the difficult parts have been done, however there is still much work to be done.”
Perhaps her successor is reading this article right now.