Home Accents Today spoke with Bryan Downey, the owner and creative director of Waylande Gregory about his plans for the business, founded by his well-known uncle and company namesake.
HAT: How did you got started in this industry?
Bryan Downey: I spent my life until the age of 40 in the fashion business. I started in retail in high school then became a rep out of the Dallas Apparel Mart in my early 20s.
At age 25, I saw an opening in the retail market in Houston and decided to open a women’s clothing store with a very chic friend, Ingrid Parker. It was called Ecco. We were the avant-garde store in Houston at that time selling brands like Vivienne Westwood, Romeo Gigli, Ghost, Anna Sui, D & G by Dolce and Gabbana and other edgy labels. It was a great five-year run.
My next-door neighbor in the shopping center was a legendary designer store, Tootsies. The owner, Mickey Rosmarin, loved my vision and hired me to buy young forward designers. On a buying trip to Paris a year later, I found a young company with potential (Rayure Paris…white and black women’s shirts) and forged a deal to distribute the brand in the USA. It was a huge success. We had big areas in all the major department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. We were constantly in film and on TV and celebrities like Halle Berry and Katie Couric were wearing our shirts. We added international brands 0039 Italy and Zoomp Brazil to our roster as well.
Many years later, after the dollar tanked against the euro, we could no longer be competitive; our margin was gone, and the amazing run ended. As luck would have it, I have an uncle who was a famous ceramic sculptor (1905-1971) with work in the Metropolitan Museum, The Smithsonian Institution and The Whitney Museum of American Art. He additionally made a line of decorative ceramics that he sold to Tiffany’s, Dunhill, Bergdorf Goodman and other fine stores while he was alive, and that forms the basis of our brand.
HAT: Tell me a bit about your company, Waylande Gregory.
Downey: I launched Waylande Gregory with my longtime business partner Mickey Rosmarin. We used our fashion connections and relaunched the brand in the penthouse of powerhouse fashion showroom AEFFE in NYC. They represented John Paul Gaulthier, Moschino and Alberta Ferretti among others. We were able to make strong appointments and found ourselves very gratefully in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman two months later.
The brand had come full circle 50+ years later. We closed after Mickey’s unexpected passing five years ago and have just relaunched the brand with a new spirit.
HAT: Tell me a bit about your current product categories and what you see yourself developing in the next 5 years.
Downey: We make decorative ceramics, accent furniture as well as bath accessories, all in stoneware and porcelain using our signature ultra-matte glazes with accents of 22k gold.
In the beginning, we exclusively made re-issues. We then started adapting Waylande’s themes into modern versions. Now we have a combination of originals and adaptations and take cues from his work in the details to create new modern pieces based on and in honor of his work.
I am beginning work on a furniture range with ceramic details so this will be something new and fresh to give our longtime clients and to reach a new audience as well as to keep people engaged and excited about the brand.
HAT: What types of interiors do you see your product landing in?
Downey: We have a huge body of his work to pull from, so we complement a wide variety of spaces depending on the pieces, from coastal to city, clean and modern, layered and nuanced. We are now offering every style in 12 colors made-to-order so every client can create a presentation uniquely theirs.
HAT: Where do you currently market to buyers?
Downey: I relaunched the collection to special clients last fall, and we just finished a great show in Atlanta showing in High Design. We are continuing by reaching out to clients directly and fielding requests from stores and designers as word spreads we are open again. When the furniture is ready, we will show in High Point.
Five fun facts about Bryan Downey
- What is your most coveted piece to date from your company? Our modern figurative leopard design is our most iconic piece and we have produced this in multiple iterations since the beginning and continue to do so to this day.
- Where do you get inspiration from when creating new designs? From archives of Waylande’s body of work as well as from modern art, fashion and travel.
- What is a personal goal of yours to reach in the next 3-5 years? I believe we only tapped the surface of our reach before, both domestically and internationally, and with the expansion in the look of the line, and the addition of new categories, we will continue to grow. This is my business goal. Personally, I love living between Mexico City and Lima, Peru where we produce the collection.
- Where is your favorite place to travel? I have been fortunate in my travel life and wish to continue to add countries to my list. My most favorite places to travel are the places I have not yet been.
- Where are you from? Joplin, Missouri.