Latinx-owned Wray opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York City as the size-inclusive fashion startup continues to raise its first round of investment.
The on-trend and ethically sourced clothing brand, which trails Universal Standard as among North America’s most size-inclusive women’s fashion brands, is focused on continuing its revenue growth trend for 2023 after scaling rapidly from $200,000 a year to $3 million in less than three years and attaining a repeat customer rate of 59 percent. It sells a full assortment of products including denim, knitwear, footwear and dresses in addition to accessories, swimwear and home goods.
“As the child of Mexican immigrants, I’ve always felt a little bit different compared to my peers,” said Wray Serna, founder of her eponymous brand, and former co-founder and chief design officer of Cloth, a venture capital-backed fashion tech company and app. “That feeling of wanting to make something that made everyone feel special, yet safe is why I built Wray. Our mission is to make fashion accessible for everyone of all sizes.”
The store at 38 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side saw significant in-store revenue within the first two months of opening, exceeding expectations by 75 percent, the company said. The label, which has collaborated with plus-size influencer Kellie Brown, has attracted attention from “Saturday Night Live” alum Aidy Bryant and actress Hilary Duff.
Serna said she connected with Brown online during the pandemic and the two quickly hit it off.
“I was inspired by her Vogue feature and when Kellie agreed to collaborate with Wray, I was thrilled,” she said. “Kellie has become a huge source of support personally and I admire her work so much. We started our design process effortlessly by peeking [virtually] into her wardrobe and discovering vintage pieces she owns.”
Wray is now raising funds from investors as it expands into new categories, including jewelry, and goes deeper into area like home goods. Previous investors and advisors include the founder of ModCloth and the chief financial officer of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the chief revenue officer at Alexis Bittar and more.
According to SeedInvest, an equity crowdfunding platform that connects startups with investors online, Wray has raised $323,000 as of Jan. 10, surpassing its target minimum of $250,000 though still accepting investments—at a minimum of $1,000—as Serna confirmed Wray is looking to raise a $2 million seed round. It’s currently valued at $8 million.
Founded in 2015, Wray has made a point of prioritizing green, responsible and reliable manufacturing that offers garment workers living wages and benefits. It says it works with responsible factories, utilizes closed-loop production and sources what it describes as environmentally conscious materials often in the form of recycled inputs. The brand says it ensures ethical working conditions with its production partners, like Friends Factory in India and Kusa in Peru, which are assessed and approved based on Fair Trade Good Practices (FTGP) standards. Wray also uses compostable, reusable packaging.
“Ultimately, sustainability at Wray means making clothing you’ll want to wear time and time again,” Serna said. “So we construct clothes to last and bring a little joy each time you reach for them.”
By the end of the year, the company plans to launch an in-house buy-back program as part of its circularity ambitions.
Also in store for 2023 is bringing back wholesale (it began in 2015 but paused in early 2020 due to the pandemic) by resuming its relationship with distribution partner Nuuly, and its first runway show for New York Fashion Week, as well as category expansion for extended footwear sizes, accommodating a wide calf and standard boot calf. Wray said it expects to secure a Netflix partnership in 2024, open stores in Portland, Ore. and Chicago in 2025, and launch bridal by 2026.
Wray said it’s aiming to succeed where Old Navy has infamously faltered in trying to serve a full spectrum of women’s sizes, a stumble that contributed to the Gap Inc. brand’s revenue loss of 19 percent, approximately $1.8 billion in its first quarter of 2022. Plus, Old Navy doesn’t focus on sustainability and instead prioritizes low cost, selling dresses for about $40 whereas a similar item from Wray averages $200. And while Old Navy is popular among women between 35 and 44 years of age, according to consumer insights company Helixa, Wray self-reportedly caters to Gen Z. Wray might be positioning itself as an Old Navy challenger to illustrate the size-inclusive market potential. It also points to Reformation as a competitor, as the two have similar price points, customer bases and a focus on sustainability, with the key difference being that Reformation offers just a few plus-size options.
“Our target demographic is a customer that is fashion forward and is looking for pieces that are sustainably made and will last a long time,” Serna said. “Our sizes range from XXS-6XL with a custom option for 6XL and above. Most of our customers identify as ‘she’ and ‘them,’ however, we do have some male customers as well. Our boots have been produced up to a size 13 so our trans customers finally have something feminine to wear. We have mother-daughter customers as well. We are an ‘everybody’ brand.”
In the U.S., many women have a hard time finding accessible, on-trend and sustainably made clothing serving a full range of sizes, with investments beyond size 12 conventionally seen as resource-intensive and too risky.
“A lot of plus customers do not get the opportunity to go into a store and physically try on clothing, it’s a luxury that typically exists in smaller sizes,” Serna said. “We find that our customers love the brick-and-mortar store to have the experience of trying on clothes in-store and many have described it as a safe space.”
Approximately 67 percent of women in the U.S. wear a size 16 or larger and plus-size apparel continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments in the entire fashion industry, with Credence Research estimating the market value at nearly $265 billion by 2027.
And brands are taking advantage of this growing market.
Dsquared dropped an extended-size capsule last year while Adidas tapped 11 Honoré for premium athleticwear exclusively in sizes 1X-4X. And Victoria’s Secret just closed its purchase of Adore Me, the size-inclusive intimates B Corp that’s helping its new owner revamp its notoriously exclusive image.