“Skyscraper heels with a matching strap on my bass!” That’s Saya Gray’s answer when asked about her style trademark. And sure enough, as I walked along Queen St. E. recently, on the opening night of the Beaches Jazz Festival, it was the stunning blonde in the sky-high wedges, with an electric bass guitar strapped across her body, who made me stop and take note. The 18-year-old musician and music teacher, who appeared with the dynamic Quincy Bullen Band, has a distinct and sassy sense of style that first started to develop about 3 years ago. “Up until then I was a major tomboy, an ‘Avril Lavigne at 16’ clone who wouldn’t wear anything but shorts past my knees,” Gray tells me. “My old friends always look at me now and laugh about the old times when I would show up to school sporting baggy pants with chains coming off of every loop hole, a baggy sweater, my signature purple top hat, and a skateboard in one arm,” she laughs.
These days, Gray’s impeccable attention to detail, and inherent sense of how to make the most of her best assets, disguise any flaws, and simply strut it with confidence have served her well: Besides her musical talents, her value as a performer has been greatly enhanced. While Gray’s approach to fashion is ultimately modern, she has a penchant for vintage pieces, especially when it comes to jewelry. And she looks to iconic designers from the past for sage advice. “Yves Saint Laurent once said, ‘Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.’ This means you have to have confidence in what you wear,” says Gray. “I believe more than half of the allure is your attitude.” Demonstrating a sophisticated savvy that’s beyond her years, Gray understands the power of style, and offers this Coco Chanel quote as proof that clothes can make the woman: “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”
Gray’s favourite stores in Toronto are mostly in the vintage vein, because she loves the surprises to be found in emporiums like Value Village, Bungalow, Pretty Freedom and Black Market. “If I’m not in the mood for the hunt, I’ll will turn to stores like Guess, BCBG, Mendocino, Aritzia, Club Monaco, American Apparel and Zara,” says Gray. For shoes, she finds that Steve Madden, Aldo, and Little Burgundy always have what she’s looking for. She loves her party earrings, and cites stores like Clic Klak on Queen West as a great spot to find them. But most of her treasured, valuable jewelry pieces are heirlooms.
Unquestionably, one of Gray’s best and most notable style assets is her crowning glory: She has her luscious locks done by Nilo at Hair Dynamix in The Beach. “Nilo is precise and does exactly what you want,” she says. “ I’ve never been less than pleased walking out of that salon.” The night I met Saya Gray, she was wearing a great little dress from Spoof, on Queen West. “They were having a summer sale where everything was around $10,” she enthuses. “Imagine that!” She got her wedge sandals and earrings from Aldo, and they were $45.00 (on sale) and $5.00, respectively. Her gold chain necklace was from a jewelry store in Florida called ‘Best of Everything’ and cost $10, while her gold link bracelet was given to her by her grandmother—a family heirloom passed down to her by her own grandmother.
I have various icons for different styles. For a hip and edgy look, I look up to Beyonce and Victoria Beckham, but for a sophisticated classic look, I look up to Gwyneth Paltrow.
Where do you get your style inspiration?
My style inspiration comes from designers as well as great websites such as lookbook.com <http://lookbook.com> . I’ve always been inspired by the people around me such as Linda Cara, my glamorous vocal coach. When I walk around Toronto I have to take care of what I am about to walk into because I’m constantly browsing what everyone else is wearing!
How do you stay in shape?
In the summer, I play many sports and run everyday. The winter can be tough to stay fit but I play lots of ice hockey and snowboard to maintain fitness levels. I believe when you feel like you’re in good shape and healthy, you are more confident in the clothing you wear and radiate beauty.
Ever second-guess an outfit you’re wearing?
Like you wouldn’t believe! I am known to stress and get everyone’s opinion on a clothing item and then ignore it all and go with my own gut instinct. It drives everyone crazy!
Best style advice?
Dress so that you see the best of yourself.