You may have seen the eponymous brand, Gracy Accad (formerly known as Style and Grace), donned on Instagram or at Shaareh Zion but the face behind its name isn’t as conspicuous. When I met up with designer Gracy at her bustling showroom in Midtown I got to know the woman behind the feminine, intricate customwear they’re most distinguished for. “When I first started, [my work] was more of a persona, because I never particularly wanted to use my name in it. I'm an introverted person, you don't see me out there.” She always felt that her designs and attention to quality and detail stood on its own. “My friend will joke that our company hiring a sewer is like going through the Hunger Games.” A room full of sewers fighting till the death to make the perfect garment? I'd like to see that.
As I walked through the crowded space (“we’re growing out of these walls” she says knowingly), I took in the crafty mood boards, the sewers fervently working away, and all the beading my mind could wrap my head around. There are only big things in the works for the luxury womenswear label, including their first (eep!) custom bridal gown which is equally exciting as it is nerve wracking the designer admits. But I don’t want to give too away much, catch up with Gracy yourself, below!
Spring/Summer 18' collection
What inspired you to start designing?
“I've always been a girly girl, growing up I used to make my sisters do little fashion shows on Saturday’s. I always liked clothing, making outfits, and getting dressed. I kind of really started my business thinking I was going to do personal shopping when I introduced it [on Instagram]. I was having things made when me and my sisters were having a lot of semachot [happy occasions]. You’ll see something and you're like I like this, but I would like it if it looked like this instead. Nothing was 100 percent the way I would have wanted it to be, so I had things made. Someone at the time had told me why don't you just put them on Instagram. I was shy about it, and needed a push initially, but I did it. And ever since then people call and new opportunities constantly present themselves. You continue to set new goals, and it's fun.”
How did your brand evolve?
I used to have a contractor, I would go to her and show her the idea; this is what I want made or I'd come to her with a client and say this is what we want made. And now I'm the contractor, we have our own team, we have our own beaders, we have our own fabric suppliers, we run a full production. It's gone from making a custom dress here or there, or a piece for myself to having full time staff, and full collections. We're growing beyond these walls. It's great, thank god. It started as a hobby, something I enjoyed to do in my free time, now it's my career.
Transitioning from Style and Grace to Gracy Accad:
When we officially opened up our doors the first thing we were advised by legal, was to trademark our brand. And Style and Grace wasn't an option. It's also not a brand name, it sounds like I do arts and crafts. When I first started it was more of a persona, because I never particularly wanted to use my name in it. I'm an introverted person, you don't see me out there. I liked it that people didn't particularly know who I was, that my work spoke on its own and I was behind the scenes. So at the end of the day [Style and Grace] wasn't me, it was my work.
What is your greatest challenge?
There's a hurdle every day. From the bead work that comes in wrong and you've been waiting for it for six weeks, fabric being out of stock, to simply not finding the perfect zipper color match; there is dealing with the day to day circumstances. We work with stores, yes. But I personally love the custom, and I want to continue doing custom; but the day to day of making sure the client walks out happy is… it's not tough because I enjoy it, but it's a challenge. And people expect you to create on the spot, they come to you and they want to see 150 ideas. You can show them every dress you have but they want something new. So I remember when I'd have back to back consultations, I'd come home and be like okay, even the biggest designer they present you 40 looks, those are your 40 looks. People expect you to have 40 looks and then they ask, okay so what else? (laughs). But it's the fun part, it's keeping me constantly my toes and keeping up with what people want. I’ve learned that I need to incorporate my taste, into what sells.
What does your day to day look like?
My goal every day is to be out of the house by 7:45am. We go over what needs to be done that day, what needs to be cut, what's coming in. A lot of times we have custom clients walking in, every day is really different. I'm the fit model, so if we're trying a new style it's me trying it on seeing what adjustments need to be made. Well, I drink a lot of coffee also. (laughs)
How does Gracy Accad give back?
Mary Tawil fashion show was our second community show we participated in.
I get reached out to a lot when there's chinese auctions and things like that; we are always taking on projects for people in need, and making exceptions. We recognize that we are part a community at the end of the day. So we do [give back], and get involved with the community events as much as we can.
What is it like working with your mom?
When we first started I was doing everything. She realized I was being torn in different directions. She's been in the business, working since she was 18, for over 38 years. She has the experience and knowledge. She started with her brother, he has a very large garment company--- his wife is Nicole Benisti she does those coats. Then she worked with my dad who does wholesale, and she did production for 25 years, she was actually the head of production and design, and now with me she takes care of the stuff she has experience with. She deals with the finances, the invoices. Sometimes when people see me it's like it takes time for me to get footing, but she has that standing and professionalism, and I try and learn. (laughs).
Where does your ambition come from?
“I never thought I was not going to work. It was always, 'what was I going to be’. The only thing that has changed is what I wanted to actually do. From when was a little girl if you check my 5th grade yearbook it says I want to be an administrator. I asked ‘Ma what do you do?’ She said ‘I'm an administrator’, so when they asked me what I wanted to be I said an administrator. It was out of the question that I was going to stay home forever. I've seen my mom and my dad work my whole life and I always respected their work ethic. I've never seen a work ethic like theirs and their ambition and their dedication to what they do.”
You're at the forefront of making people happy, how does that feel?
I'm very lucky because I see instant gratification almost. Not instant, sometimes it takes months and months and months. But I see the fruits of my labor relatively quickly. So it's very rewarding. I'm very lucky, it's a very rewarding job.
How would you describe Gracy Accad?
Feminine. I think everyone would agree we're very feminine. We're very intricate, I'd say. Attention to detail, we do like beading. We try to incorporate trends but we're not particularly trendy. But I'd like to think that our garments are still timeless at the same time. Like this jacket I'm wearing, got it my first year of [Baruch] college when I was 18 years old and I'm still wearing it.
What Makes Gracy Accad stand out from the rest?
My friend will joke that our company getting a sewer is like going through the Hunger Games, we have them sew us a garment and we decide if they’re good enough. We literally interviewed dozens and dozens of sewers and we've only kept literally only a little bit over a handful. We're very very selective, because it's the quality of work. From pattern-making, beadwork, to fabric suppliers, we only use the best.
A Word of Advice?
Intern by somebody who's successful at what you want to do. I didn't particularly have that, I worked with a contractor at first so I got to learn things by watching it actually happen in front of me. I would be waiting for her to deliver me a dress so I'd get there first thing in the morning and not leave till my dress was done, weeks and weeks at a time. I sat around for days and days and watched the process. There would be times where I would walk in 7:30 in the morning and she wouldn't talk to me till 4 in the afternoon. I would sit there, talk to the beader, talk to whoever it was or just watch. Sometimes you learn from experience and determination, but it's always easier to learn from someone who is established.