Raya Sacco brings high-end fashion to the Motor City with her brand Raya
By Claire Manor
Photography by Ryan Klosowski
Raya Sacco, the founder and stylist of Detroit-based brand Raya, is passionate about promoting independent designers and bringing high-end fashion to Detroit. Sacco is a fashion curator, using her new store, also called Raya, to sell vintage and avant-garde clothing. She says the store was created to be an intimate shopping experience for everyone from fashion tastemakers to shoppers looking to pump up their style.
While Sacco doesn’t design her own clothes, the Raya website consists of her curated selections intended to feature elements that make up a closet: vintage pieces, pieces from local designers and high-end designer pieces. She also does appointment-only styling in her Detroit studio. Through her close relationship with independent designer Keiko Koakutsu, she has found a platform to showcase forward-thinking garments and unique styling.
Tell us about your brand. My brand is a mixture of vintage and high-end designer, but also my style. I support independent designers that people don’t really know, people that are making clothes in their homes or studios. I am obsessed with Keiko Koakutsu; she is one of the main designers behind the pieces. When I do fashion shows it’s all embodied around her but it is my styling.
Tell us about your start in fashion. I have loved fashion since I was 8 years old when I was playing dress-up in the closet. I moved to New York when I was 21 and was a freelance stylist for three years. I wasn’t getting paid, I was just doing it to get my work out there. I wasn’t satisfied. I met Keiko in 2015 — she was the first person I styled for. I wanted to go to Detroit, my hometown, which is an untapped territory. I wanted encourage people to branch out. You don’t have to have a lot of money; you can wear designs from people in your neighborhood.
What was the inspiration behind your most recent collection? Keiko is Japanese and I am obsessed with Japanese fashion. I wanted to showcase Keiko’s talent and the styling.
What kinds of styles do you carry? We carry two types of styles at my virtual store: vintage and avant-garde. I carry vintage T-shirts and archival pieces from the ‘80s and ‘90s mixed with futuristic pieces from Japanese designers like Keiko Koakutsu, Number Nine, Comme Des Garcon, and Kapital Global while featuring well-known streetwear designers like Chrome Hearts, Bape, and Stone Island.
Three words to describe yourself? Free spirit, unconventional, and fearless.
Three words to describe your personal style? Edgy, experimental, and conceptual.
Who inspires you in the fashion and business world? My friend and fashion mentor, Keiko Koakutsu inspires me and influences the decisions I make creatively. I met her 5 years ago in Harlem, NY. When I met her and saw her clothes, I truly felt like she made clothes for me. She used to own a cafe in Harlem called Mama K, and I walked in once a week to see what she had on her rack. She encouraged me to be a stylist, told me I had a gift that I never knew I had and that’s how my professional career in fashion began.
You are never fully dressed without…a ribbed white tank. Super simple, I know, but it simplifies all my crazy outfits and conceptual pieces. One simple garment can tone down every look.
Favorite quote or words to live by? God is love.
If you had to live in one Raya piece, what would it be? My black Keiko Koakutsu sheer wrap top: super flattering for the female body and pairs nicely with all types of garments.
What do you see coming in the future? I see Detroit being the leading city in fashion in the next 5-10 years. We have a genuine scene here filled with talented artists, designers, models, and photographers that have not been able to showcase their talent to the fullest. I lived in NYC for 3 years and l felt like the city was so harsh and expensive that the most talented artists could not survive [there]. Every time I visited Detroit, I would become more and more inspired and I realized that the culture truly appreciates fashion and self-expression here. There need to be avenues for people to showcase their work, which is why my team and I are working on presenting a Detroit Fashion Week Underground… stay tuned!
This interview has been edited for tone and clarity.