Q&A: How fashion designer Delvin McCray turned his passion into purpose
The COVID-19 outbreak has put many things on pause, but up and coming designer Delvin McCray's work isn't one of them. After a stint on "Project Runway" and launching a store in Chicago, McCray was forced to close his doors due to coronavirus. However, McCray was quick to pivot to making masks for people on the frontlines of the outbreak like police officers and nurses, as well as for people who are trying to navigate the new normal created by COVID-19 without getting sick or making others sick. I had the chance to chat with Delvin to learn more about his journey, his new summer line and how he's staying motivated during this time.
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Can you give a brief history on your background and how you got started in fashion and fashion design?
I transferred from Northern Illinois University to Columbia College Chicago and I started off as a fine arts major because I'm an artist at heart. Later, I decided to use fashion as my art form to express myself so that's what started my journey. I've always had a secret love for fashion and I had always wanted to own my own company, so I just got all the knowledge I could doing internships and apprenticeships.
I studied under everybody that I could find who were masters in their craft and gained all the knowledge I could from people like Chicago-based designer Barbara Bates. I started my company in 2016 and the backbone of my company is custom designs, so I do men and womenswear, everything from suits to wedding dresses and I recently added shoes to my assortment. I am constantly growing and expanding my inventory.
How did competing on Bravo's "Project Runway" come about and what takeaways did you gain from your time on the show?
After working on my brand for a couple of years, I applied for "Project Runway" and I was accepted. I did really well on the show. I especially loved the feedback from the judges because I hadn't been critiqued since I was in college in 2016, so it was really refreshing to have that second set of professional eyes to tell me how they viewed what I produced.
After "Project Runway," I came back to Chicago and opened a store but due to COVID-19, I recently had to close, but I just moved it over to Bridgeport Arts Center. So, it's a smaller footprint but I'm still up and running.
Tell us more about your initiative to make filtered masks to combat COVID-19.
After I closed my store and shifted operations to the Bridgeport Arts Center, I decided to switch gears and started producing face masks. I originally started out donating them and then customers started asking me if they could purchase them and where they could get them, so I started selling them. I put the proceeds from the sales back into producing the masks to give to those on the front lines --police officers, doctors and nurses.