black fashion designer by Meg Bryant October 14, 2021
Devin Ray is a custom corset designer based in Brooklyn. Devin and I have been friends for a while, and I’ve seen her business Totally Devin grow exponentially over a short period of time.
We’ve spent a lot of time together and even created content together. She invited me to her bedroom to chat about her work.
I’ve been in her room so many times, but it feels like each time I notice something new. It’s almost like her room is collaged. Her room is covered in so many pictures and posters that the walls are barely visible.
She’s got a VHS setup, and below it, her sewing machine lays on the floor surrounded by scraps of fabric, pins, notes, and sketches. There are pops of bright red, your favorite bands from the ’90s, an assortment of trinkets, and custom corsets everywhere.
It’s maximalist in a punk, yet saccharine way. It’s loud and dreamy at the same time. We took a few pictures, then sat down on her bed to chat.
Meg Bryant: Hello, Devin. Hi man. Thanks for having me here. Obsessed with your work.
Devin Ray: Hi Meg! Thank you.
MB: Tell us about yourself.
DR: Well, my name is Devin Ray. I’m 21-years-old. I live in Bushwick, but I’m from upstate New York. I go to FIT full-time for lingerie design, and right now I’m working on my brand called Totally Devin where I commission customized corsets for a myriad of people through my Instagram.
MB: You’re making very distinctive, custom corsets, and they’re all made to order. When did it all start?
DR: I’ve been doing my craft and my corsets for a long time for myself, and I never really viewed it as something that could be lucrative or a business-type thing.
Then at the beginning of the pandemic, I got a few inquiries about doing custom corsets and making customs for people. It started as just one for my friend Lexi, and then it kind of just snowballed from there.
I posted one or two that I had done, and then more people started requesting. I started only doing them for friends, and then it just became my full-time thing. I ended up quitting my day job and moving out here a year ago.
MB: I love the brand name: Totally Devin. What inspired that?
DR: It’s been my Instagram handle since I was like 14 and I guess it just stuck and stood the test of time. It’s the only username I’ve kept, and yeah, I like it. It’s saccharine and cute and kinda teeny bopper and I like it a lot.
MB: And what inspires your custom corset designs?
DR: I have a big passion for romanticism, and film, and also intimates. So it’s kind of combining all these influences throughout my life. I also love punk rock, like nineties riot girl-esque music.
“I love to incorporate lyricism and romantic endeavors in my life and outlet them into a garment that’s both sexy and wearable.”Devin Ray, Totally Devin Founder
MB: You mentioned that you go to FIT, and you’re in a concentrated lingerie program at your school. What’s that like?
DR: It’s good. It’s very intense right now. It’s the smallest class I’ve ever had. It’s probably only 15 students. It’s just all of us working in conjunction. Right now we’re doing a lot of work with bras.
DR: It’s just intimate shapewear garments that are basics, and it’s a lot of fundamentals. It’s definitely super tedious, but I really enjoy it. It’s nice to go back to basics cause it’s easy to get jaded and be like, “Oh, I already know all this shit! I’m doing this full time for myself,” but it’s nice to be taught things that I had never even thought about.
DR: Also, hopefully in the future, I’ll be able to incorporate bras, panties, and slips into my branding, which I didn’t know I would ever do. So it’s very exciting.
MB: Are there any design requests that you’ve turned down and if so, why?
DR: Um, yeah, there’s definitely been a few. I think in terms of cost in time and my rates, it’s difficult for me to incorporate certain requests. Especially, people who were pressing me to use leather and leather-esque materials. It’s just too difficult to do.
Same thing with certain colorways and concepts I’m just not into. I feel like most of the commissions I take and most of the requests I get are very close to the ethos of my brand though. So it’s been pretty simple for the most part.
“I can usually incorporate my vision with someone else’s.”– Devin Ray, Totally Devin Founder
DR: I think that’s also what’s most fun about it because a lot of times before I started doing commissions, I was like, “I don’t want to work with other people. I just want my perspective distilled through my head”, but it’s nice to hear other voices and have ideas and fabrications that I would’ve never thought of. I feel like it’s even influenced a lot of what I do now. It’s inspired me a lot.
MB: You kinda already answered this, but a lot of small brands were hit hard by COVID-19. How did it affect you, and how did you navigate that?
DR: I think, for me, the pandemic was advantageous. It gave me a lot of time to be alone and distill my mind and my ideas and go for something that I would have never gone for before the pandemic.
I was working at Victoria’s Secret and got laid off and went home and was sitting at home doing fucking nothing. So… I think it was a good thing. Also, everyone was on unemployment, ready to spend on random tedious garments. So it worked out pretty well for me. Now, in a post-pandemic world, it’s a little strange to navigate, but I’m working through it.
MB: What’s your favorite corset design that you’ve made?
DR: My favorite one is probably the one I did for @Creepyyeha, which has all the velvet straps and it’s just in one primary color: red. It’s just classic and simple and really sexy. It looks super good on her and now I get so many requests to do similar things. So yeah, that’s probably it.
MB: What can we expect from Totally Devin in the future? Do you have any plans or dreams?
DR: Absolutely. I want this to become a career. Right now it’s more of a baby passion project. I would love to have a studio, have assistance, and be able to even put some of my designs into production. I’d also love to develop new styles.
I’m loving the corsets I’m working on in this historical corset class I’m taking. I’m learning all sorts of stuff I would have not learned otherwise. Currently, my custom corset pattern is adapted from a random drape I did.
It has no real cultural or historical influence, so I’m definitely going to develop new styles. I also want to do bras and panties sets hopefully soon. So yeah. Very excited.
MB: Word. And what are your thoughts on fast fashion? I know you had a little experience.
DR: I am pretty anti-fast fashion. A lot of the people I know are mostly thrifting and investing in small brands. I just think the longevity of fast fashion is nonexistent.
“In my opinion, the idea of fast fashion is just ripping off every trend, every small designer, and everything that could be cool and making it in the cheapest form possible.”– Devin Ray, Totally Devin Founder
So I’m pretty anti-fast fashion.
MB: Talk about your…
DR: Oh, okay. So I had a few corsets that designers ripped on like Ali Express. My sister kept saying that Shein or Ali Express was gonna rip my stuff and then it ended up happening.
I’ve had a lot of people in my family, and friends of mine trying to help, including a mutual that’s super cool from China that was talking to the Ali Express people negotiating and saying, “You need to take this down!”
It’s impossible to navigate with the laws, cause you can just slightly change garments and promote them using your photos. You know, it’s kind of moot, but it happens to everyone.
MB: Where can people find you?
DR: You can find me at @totally_devin on Instagram, and that’s my primary platform where I sell from. I will be developing a website hopefully soon. So you can find that on my Instagram until I get around to doing that.
MB: Thank you so much for having this chat with me.
DR: Thank you so much, Meg!