“Every choice we make, small or large, we are in control of designing the type of life we live.”
Born on January 15, 1974, Rachel Roy is the daughter of two immigrants-a Bengali father and a Dutch mother. She also has a younger brother named Rajendra.
Ruth Roy, her mother, was a computer programmer who coded high-security programs for the Naval Postgraduate School; her father worked as a carpenter, sociology professor and psych-ward nurse.
With fashion on her mind, Roy got work experience at a nearby aquarium where she folded T-shirts and gradually worked her way to a managerial position at Contempo Casuals at age 14 at Seaside, California.
“My confidence did not begin until I started working in my first job at 14. I always knew I liked fashion so I started out working in a clothing store, and then as an adult I started my own business. I didn’t do well at the beginning but because it was something that I loved and I enjoyed it. This gave me confidence,” she said.
After attending Seaside High School in California, Roy majored in Psychology and English at the Columbia Union College (Washington Adventist University), a Seventh Day Adventist college at Takoma Park, Maryland.
“It moved me from Northern California to the East Coast (Washington D.C.). The balance of the two coasts and the lifestyles that they offer shows up in my work today…[English and psychology] are two areas that you need to be an expert in if you’re in the world of fashion,” she said.
After graduation, she moved to New York City where she worked in the retail industry at the Neiman Marcus Group and BCBG; she also was a stylist working for free.
“I grew up in a city where Macy’s was the most expensive store. We didn’t have a Neiman (Marcus), didn’t have a Barneys,” she said.
One of the opportunities she got was to style and dress women for a music video; however, she got fired from the job as the women “weren’t scantily clad enough for the producers.”
She became an intern in the mailroom of Rocawear and then worked her way to become a creative director for the children’s and women’s sections at Rocawear, where she did more “licensing” of the clothing than designing.
At this time in 2005, she married Damon Dash (the co-founder of Roc-a-Fella Records and Rocawear) with whom she has two daughters (Ava and Tallulah).
Roy became her own boss when she took on the creative director role of the “globally recognized” Rachel Roy brand, which she founded in 2004. Consumers can find swimwear, outerwear, contemporary, intimates, curvy and jewelry products from the Rachel Roy brand.
Under the “Royale Etenia LLC” name, Roy’s business “formalized” in 2008; that same year, the fashion company Jones, investment firm TSM Capital, Dash and Roy entered a “joint venture” called “Rachel Roy IP Co. LLC” (encompassing RACHEL Rachel Roy for Macy’s, RR and the designer label) for “global expansion.”
Dash and Roy got divorced in 2009 and entered a custody battle of their daughters-Roy “won sole custody” that April.
Another battle the fashion mogul faced was when Jones attempted to sell Roy’s “design trademarks” to Bluestar Alliance, a New York City brand-management firm, for $15 million, and “liquidate” her brand’s “designer division”; having claimed “to have lost millions on its investment” in the joint venture, Jones wanted to “sell itself to private-equity firm Sycamore Partners” in 2013.
Roy won that battle when she went to court.
“The judge decided that yes, indeed, creativity means you may decide who you sell your name to…That win was huge for me,” she said.
Owning the entire “creative control” of the brand “contractually,” Roy was able to keep her company.
Currently, Royale Etenia (which Roy and Dash are still equal partners) owns 36 percent and global apparel manufacturer Topson Downs (based in Los Angeles) owns 64 percent of Rachel Roy IP Co.; the new joint venture is called RRIPIT LLC.
For a “fraction of the price,” Macy’s sells the RACHEL Rachel Roy collection while Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s sell Roy’s “higher-end” collection.
Some of her awards and honors include the Mattel’s 10 Women to Watch, ACE Award by the Accessories Council, Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed List and other “best dressed” honors. The Council of Fashion Designers of America member’s work has been published on many publications such as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNN, The New York Times and The Today Show. LaJolla Fashion Film Festival and AdWeek Media have acknowledged Roy’s fashion work as well. Her columns have been featured in InStyle magazine and The Huffington Post.
“Had I not been forced to work, I would not know my work ethic today…My father told me repeatedly, as early as 8 or 9, to realize I was living in a land literally of opportunity and that I could be the American dream–and start a business,” she said.
Roy is also friends with Kim Kardashian and cosmetics creator Bobbi Brown, with whom she often collaborates with for the New York Fashion Week. Those who have worn Roy’s designs are Michelle Obama (for various events such as the 2011 State of the Union address) and Sasha Obama.
Vogue magazine’s 2012 “Runway to Win” campaign featured “fashion-forward, U.S. made, pro-Obama merchandise [(to support his reelection)]” by twenty-three designers such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Tracy Reese, Jason Wu and Rachel Roy. For people to listen to “guided meditation,” Deepak Chopra and Roy collaborated to create a pin for headphones called the “Law of Attraction” button.
Roy is also involved in many programs and organizations-she serves as an advisor for a national non-profit organization for underprivileged children called World of Children and serves as a mentor in CFDA incubator programs, WoolMark Prize and Who’s Next/Vogue Mexico for “young design talent.”
Roy is no stranger to the public. She has spoken at the Fortune Most Powerful Women conference, the White House and summits on women’s empowerment on topics related to philanthropy and entrepreneurship.
Speaking of philanthropy and entrepreneurship, Kindness Is Always Fashionable was founded by Roy to “help women artisans around the world create sustainable income for their families and communities.”
“…I don’t consider it a business, I consider it in tandem with my own business. I consider it as the story of my business and my brand and “the why” of what I do. It is just my way of life…when you do what you love and combine that with helping others, that’s when you live a full, complete life,” she said.
The proceeds from the sales (on Roy’s websites) of products made by female artisans go towards women’s and children’s organizations.
For example, the creation and sale of totes and other products provided “200,000” meals to school children in India, helped towards relief efforts for victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, helped towards OrphanAid Africa and various other causes.
“About – Rachel Roy.” RACHEL Rachel Roy® Official – Contemporary Clothing – Rachel Roy, www.rachelroy.com/pages/about.
Kelly, Cara. “Rachel Roy to Women: ‘Designers Are Reading Your Comments and They Very Much Matter’.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 15 Mar. 2016, www.usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2016/03/15/rachel-roy-women-designers-reading-your-comments-and-they-very-much-matter/81822596/.
King, Michelle. “Fashion Designer Rachel Roy On The Business Of Giving Back.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 8 Aug. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/michelleking/2017/08/07/fashion-designer-rachel-roy-on-the-businesses-of-giving-back/#34a72fa04e66.
Petro, Alisha. “Oprah Loves Her. Michelle Obama Does Too. How Seaside’s Own Rachel Roy Became One of the Hottest Names in New York.” Monterey County Weekly, Milestone Communications Inc., 16 May 2013, www.montereycountyweekly.com/news/cover/oprah-loves-her-michelle-obama-does-too-how-seaside-s/article_a1cdef35-7d82-571d-b195-2e5f96cc9260.html.
Ransom, Diana. “How Designer Rachel Roy Battled to Win Back Her Fashion Empire.” Inc.com, Inc., www.inc.com/diana-ransom/rachel-roy-entrepreneur-grace-under-pressure.html.
Roy, Rachel. “Designer Rachel Roy.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 15 Mar. 2016, www.usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2016/03/15/rachel-roy-women-designers-reading-your-comments-and-they-very-much-matter/81822596/.
Roy, Rachel. “Rachel Roy’s Book, ‘Design Your Life’.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 15 Mar. 2016, www.usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2016/03/15/rachel-roy-women-designers-reading-your-comments-and-they-very-much-matter/81822596/.
Tishgart, Sierra. “9 Fashion Designers on How They Chose Their College and Major.” Teen Vogue, TeenVogue.com, 18 June 2015, www.teenvogue.com/gallery/fashion-designers-colleges-majors#7.
Watts, Cliff. “Rachel Roy.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 7 Aug. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/michelleking/2017/08/07/fashion-designer-rachel-roy-on-the-businesses-of-giving-back/#34a72fa04e66.