Inside a large, floor-level studio in Greenpoint, Wray Serna—the 31-year-old designer behind womenswear line Wray—sits at her desk, staring at a mood board of colors and patterns, the current inspiration for her Fall ‘16 line. On the wall next to her, there are two painted hues of barely visible pastels; black aquarium rocks are scattered on the floor—leftover traces of the set constructed by Serna and her pattern-designer collaborater and husband, artist Ethan Cook, for her Spring ‘16 photo shoot.
“I wanna say there were 300 pounds of aquarium rocks, and we just dumped them,” says Serna, explaining the process. “We were trying to find some kind of rock texture because the collection is based off of Greece and the Greek Islands we went to that are rimmed with volcanic rock and ash,” she says. “That was impossible to get, so we settled for this—Ethan and I were just really excited about this set.”
It is easy to fall in love with the spring line that those rocks, in part, inspired. Serna’s tanks, jumpsuits, casual pants, and dresses are at once rudimentary—geometric even—but infused with strong currents of play and imagination. With elements like triangular cutouts that act like built-in jewelry, coconut shell buttons, and two-toned shoulder ties, the aesthetic evokes the type of woman who likes to have fun.
Serna grew up in Normal, Illinois but lived inside a world that was anything but standard. She and her best friend Grace played games like “Getting Mystical,” which involved poring over old books, thinking about maidens and horses and knights. Serna’s mom is Italian and her father is Mexican; she describes both as “very colorful” characters. “It was through that kind of magical upbringing that I started to become interested in design,” she says.
Back in the studio, Ethan walks in with Peter Pan donuts and their two Japanese Chins, Bishkin and Fizz Gigg, the latter named after a character from Jim Henson’s 80s movie The Dark Crystal. “Bishkin is not a name, I made it up,” says Wray.
“Ethan gets irritated when people ask what they’re called.”
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” says Ethan, “so I tell them anything else, like Hamburger and Dolly.”
He leaves the donuts on a plate (“We like to host,” says Serna) and sits down at the far end of the studio to look at Fall ‘16 patterns in Illustrator. “We get inspired by so much,” says Wray. “There is an old Russian book with illustrated birds that I really want to use,” but, she adds, “I let Ethan take a little bit more control, one of the reason he’s over there.”
The process seems to be working. “Thanks for being such a fan,” says Wray, and she lets out a small giggle, which makes me think of Wray and Grace, getting mystical in Normal, Illinois. More immediately, though, that magic is all around, imbued in her designs. ♦