WATER VALLEY, Miss. (WCBI) – New York, Paris, Los Angeles. The world’s fashion leaders usually come from the biggest cities, but right here in rural north Mississippi, one young fashion designer is making a name for herself.
Julia Ray started sewing at a young age. She always knew she wanted to design and create clothing.
“I always wanted to be a fashion designer. When I was in school I wanted to be a fashion designer. Everybody said you can’t make a living off being a designer, and my sister was living in Atlanta at the time and she was in chiropractor school. I followed in her footsteps and enrolled, but then I met a designer. She asked me to volunteer some hours with her and the rest of it is history,” Ray said.
The Charleston native followed her heart. She began designing costumes for shows at Busch Gardens in Florida. Three years ago with the struggling economy, Ray returned home to Mississippi. Now with a design studio and work room in downtown Water Valley, Ray is working hard on her women’s clothing, and a children’s collection called Juju by Julia Ray.
“I pretty much offer everything. I wasn’t planning on offering everything but everyone wants or needs something different and to be able to fill that need is good for me. I started with my women’s apparel and several people asked me to make items for kids. I branched off doing kids wear,” Ray said.
Ray’s business has expanded beyond the streets of Water Valley. Her children’s collection can now be found in 19 stores across the southeast.
“I started out with stores here locally. I travel and do trade shows, and when I’m traveling that’s how I’m able to pick up other stores. Most of my business has been here in the south. I also have two sales representatives that I just picked up. One is in Texas and one is in Nashville, so that helps branch business out. My goal this year is to do a trade show on the west coast so I hope that will put me more on the west coast,” said Ray.
Locals often see Ray for alterations, and she designs by request. While her business continues growing, Water Valley is the place she’s come to love.
“Water Valley has a lot going on with it right now. It’s a very artsy place to me, and being able to come in and be a fashion designer here is really good,” Ray said.
In addition to Ray’s Water Valley studio, her children’s collection can be found in stores in Oxford, Tupelo and Jackson. Her designs can also be viewed on her website, http://www.juliaray.com/