We are super excited to introduce this weeks wonder woman, Future Female Vickie El Rayyes. Owner of gorgeous lifestyle brand Dili Grey, Dilli Grey are currently popping up as part of the West Eleven Collective West Eleven Collective until 26th November. You can find the gorgeous store at 77 Elizabeth Street London SW1W, housing a variety of amazing brands such as The Collective Boutique SVP Jewellery , Bag And Bones and Coveted London
FF: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
VER: I have worked in the fashion industry for almost 25 years as a fashion buyer for some of the most iconic brands on the British high street. I have always been drawn to fashion and design ever since I can remember. I spent the early part of my childhood growing up in Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia so the sights and sounds of these incredible places left an imprint on my soul. We took adventurous holidays and I have early memories of watching batik being made in Bali and trawling through the markets in Hong Kong with my mum picking up vintage embroideries and delicious silks. So the collectors instinct for fabric treasure hunting is practically in my blood. I have bags of fabric swatches, embroideries and meters of fabric which I am constantly rummaging through.
FF: Why did you start Dilli Grey?
VER: Many of the brands I have worked for took me to India and it was love at first trip. I have always been drawn to colour, texture, detail and arts and crafts so it always feels like I am home when I am sourcing or on a design trip. I worked at East as the Head of Buying and had the pleasure and privilege of working with some incredible people in the UK and in India. I was deeply involved in working with the Artisans at Anokhi and Fab India seeing the incredible work by some of the best Artisans in the country and it blew my mind every time I visited. I was really drawn to the homeware, a seed was sown about creating my own artisan home and lifestyle brand with a modern British/ Indian sensibility. I am also passionate about the female run businesses that I support in India this is empowering for the communities it supports and the individual entrepreneurs as there is still a misogynistic attitude towards working women and their role in society. I am very keen on finding and supporting these women in their endeavours.
FF: What does Future Female mean to you?
VER: Fortunately my parents bestowed me with the greatest gift of believing that anything is possible, so I grew up in a very female oriented home (3 women 1 male) . For me quiet misogyny is the killer and whilst I used to quietly feel uncomfortable when I experienced this I am now much more confrontational and have been known to happily ‘discuss’ strangers views on the tube in front of anyone who will listen. I have a 10 year old daughter and a 7 year old son and and since having children have been much more passionate about protecting the voice of females but also to ensure my son grows up feeling that equality is the norm and that both sexes should be treated fairly and with respect. I love the new wave of female empowerment we are currently experiencing and would love to see the ripple effect of this to a wider community of women all over the world.
FF: As a designer how would you describe your creative process?
VER: I am an ideas driven person so it pours out of me all the time. I have lots of ways of capturing my thoughts. I’m hugely influenced by colour and prints so I have bags and files of colour combinations I love and books of hand block swatches which I have collected over the years. In the main I would say that everything starts with colour. I travel to India twice a year and work with the artisans on those 2 things and we play and experiment until pop something works and I run with it, it’s a very fluid process and very creative.
FF: What do you love about being your own boss, and what are the challenges?
VER: I am a little anti- establishment so love that I can create my own schedule and pace. I am also a huge collaborator and people person. Having worked with teams of amazing creative over the years I find it a little lonely at time so really love collaborating with freelancers who help me from time to time.
FF: Can you tell us a bit about the latest collection and what is inspiring you at the moment?
VER: The latest collection was very much inspired by winter pastels, I loved the combination of the pistachio green and pale pink together, I have introduced velvet into the collection and wanted them to be in unusual colours to show off the stunning hand embroidery. I always go back and group pictures from my trips and on my last trip to Jaipur noticed that I had snapped a number of scenes with these 2 beautiful colours together and so it began….
FF: There is a shift in how and where women work, was it a natural progression for you to go it alone and why?
VER: I have had my own business before and felt that it was only a matter of time before I did it again. I have worked so hard over the last 10 years managing senior roles travelling and working long hours has made me feel a little disconnected from family life so I wanted to try and create a business that gives me the flexibility to be around my children more and to do something I love.
FF: Do you feel the rise of women entrepreneurs, is a good thing and are they getting the same support as a male would?
VER: I feel that I have surrounded myself with women who are all empowering themselves to take control of their working lives but it is not perfect by any means and I feel lucky and privileged to live in a part of the world where these choices are possible. There is a long way to go but encouraging to see more women in power and breaking through the glass ceiling, making it to top CEO positions and we even have a female PM – although that may be another conversation for another day. I think it’s important for us to encourage the younger generations of women to keep pushing boundaries and to keep weeding the path that has been created for them, so to speak.
FF: If there was one thing you would change about your life as a woman what would it be?
VER: To not give myself the pressure of being a perfect mother and the perfect business person.
FF: Are there key messages you are passing on to your children when it comes to gender equality, how important do you think it is to change your story around gender?
VER: As I mentioned earlier I believe in equality and celebrating individuals, I want to teach my kids to use a different language around gender and to understand that anything is possible, for me its more about teaching them that hard work, fairness and commitment to a cause is what’s important in life.
FF: What are you reading at the moment?
VER: I am reading Swing Time by Zadie Smith which is actually an interesting tale of 2 young girls and their life journeys. It has brilliant things to say about race, class and gender I would recommend although I am only 2 thirds through.
FF: How would you describe your fashion style?
VER: I am a colourful eclectic dresser (my wardrobe is organized by colour), I adore embroideries, kimonos and dresses but worn with boots, trainers or a sexy shoe. I’m a British bohemian and adore dressing up, I have more clothes than I know what to do with although I buy what I consider keepers and try not to do throwaway fast fashion. I still wear things I have owned for 10 years plus, as my style has definitely evolved from the same place just a bit more grown up.
Big gratitude to Vickie for taking the time to support our Future Female series. Do check out Vickie’s range and the other fab brands and events on at the West Eleven Collective on Elizabeth street, Belgravia and pop into Peggy Porschen for a cupcake while you’re at it. Dilli Grey Instagram