From TV Star to Fashion Designer: Draya Michele

The TV star turned designer Draya Michele is making a name for herself in the fashion industry. Her upscale swimwear line, Mint Swim, features modern and sporty swimsuits and started the designer’s climb to the top. Recently, the entrepreneur started Beige & Coco, a clothing line inspired by Michele’s own wardrobe. From designing two different lines, to managing over 5.6 million Instagram followers, to recently becoming a mom—Draya Michele does it all.

Cliché: You started out as a TV star, but have re-branded as a designer and style guru. Have you always had a love for fashion?
Draya Michele: Fashion was always my first passion. It was the reason I even decided to move to California and even consider being on TV at all. It was to make a bigger name for myself in the fashion industry.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is a mix of three things: business, casual, and party. I like to dress appropriate for all three things if possible.
What is one piece that you could never live without?
Black heels.
Your swimsuit line, Mint Swim, has really taken off. How did you get started designing swimsuits?
Swimsuits came first, so Mint Swim has been my brand for six years now, and it’s just been an incredible journey. I got into swimsuits as soon as I moved to California. I knew it was something that I needed to live in California to do, so I decided to come to California and do a little TV work, too. That way, I could be inspired by the pools, the beaches, and the overall lifestyle. From that, I designed swimwear.
What do you think sets Mint Swim apart from other swimsuit lines?
Besides it having a creator like myself behind it, I don’t think there is another answer for that. I think it’s definitely me that makes it unique. The influence that I have on the brand and the way that I pay attention to social media and the requests of my customers…I don’t think anyone else is doing it like that. I really pay attention to what my consumers want, so I design specifically for them. I ask them what they want, and what they ask, they shall receive.
As a designer, do you have a favorite piece that you’ve created?
Since I design them all, they’re kind of all my favorite pieces, so I can’t really choose one. That was kind of a goal to keep in mind in starting the new line. I created Beige & Coco because I wanted to redesign a collection of my favorite things that were in my closet, and I did. So they’re all kind of my favorite.
When did you start working on Beige & Coco?
I got started on the brand about seven months ago, and right away I knew that I wanted it to be a New York-based brand. It has a really East Coast vibe to it because I feel like a lot of the fashion hits the East Coast first. We started very small, with just a few pieces. I think we have maybe 10-12 pieces in the collection and it’s doing really well, and we are already on to spring.
Is it difficult designing for and operating two brands at once?
Yes, it is pretty difficult doing two brands at the same time. I like to measure out times for each one. I take certain days of the week and they’re dedicated to Mint Swim and the other days of the week are dedicated to Beige & Coco. I split it up pretty equally and make sure each brand gets an equal amount of time.
If you could collaborate with another designer, who would it be and why?
I would collaborate with anyone that I would see fit. I’m my own designer, but I’m still very much influenced by other designers. I’d love to work with Victoria Beckham, Tom Ford, Zac Posen, whoever.
What is your best piece of fashion advice?
I would say to throw away any white bras. I think that a nude bra is the best way to go and its runner-up is going to be a black bra. A white bra just doesn’t look flattering under anything. You can see it under a t-shirt, you can see it under any blouse. You want to blend in instead of stand out when it comes to undergarments, so throw away the white bra.
How does social media play a role with Mint Swim and Beige & Coco?
Social media is the number one tool I use in business. I ask questions there and I get answers from the people that follow me, and also I’m able to answer questions that I’m asked from people that follow me. It really helps to be able to interact with your customers and know what they want. It also helps as a marketing tool. You can share sales, promotions, and all different kinds of things on these platforms. I say it all the time: I still can’t believe social media is free.
Aside from fashion, I understand you are big into fitness and health! Having just had a baby last April, what do you do to stay fit?
Besides working out, I’m a member of a gym and I definitely go to the gym several times a week. Besides that, I like to try these crazy outrageous diets; when I start to feel out of shape, I do these crash diets. I really enjoy it, but I usually don’t get through it all the way. My fans really like watching it on Snapchat and experiencing the journey with me, so I try. When I’m not on a crash diet, I really do portion control my food, and I really am a healthy eater naturally.
Do you have a favorite routine?
I just do a lot of cardio. I spend at least 50 minutes on the treadmill alone, so that’s the beginning of my workout. At least 50 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes is the minimum for me. I just think it’s the best way to get your heart pumping, and that’s really the best way to actually keep the weight down.
What advice do you have for anyone that wants to break into the industry?
I would say just do it! The fashion industry is not the kindest industry. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be “accepted.” I’m still working every day and growing and still trying to get into the “in crowd,” but I’m also very much into creating my own lane. There have been a lot of doors that have been closed and a lot of lanes I couldn’t go down, so I’m into creating my own lanes where I just do my own thing now, and it’s equally satisfying.
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Lights, Camera, Fashion. Feature Image Courtesy of Jay Stewart @jaystewartphoto
Stylist: Michael Mann @michael.mann of @akixmann  
MUA/hair: David Rodriguez @dzrodbeauty

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