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What 6 Months In New York Will Do To You

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    We don't just appreciate an inspired ensemble. We want to know the whole making-of story behind it. But in Style Roots, we're going one better. In partnership with Nordstrom Rack, this series will deep-dive into the real sartorial evolutions of seven city dwellers who all came from very different starts. Be it a streetwear OG or newbie vintage collector, we'll examine how past and present cultural, social, and career influences mold one's unique style persona.

    Some prefer being a big fish in a smaller pond, but Makayla Wray had a different idea when she moved from her hometown of Pittsburgh to New York City. Not only did the change drop this fashion technical designer into one of the most aggressive ecosystems, but it also allowed her to embrace the full power of personal style in a place where individuality is as celebrated as it is diverse.

    Though Wray is only at the beginning of this new life chapter — she moved to Brooklyn this past February to jump-start her career — her sleek-meets-streetwear aesthetic (a.k.a. Instagram gold) is one that's been a work in progress since high school. The only difference now: In her words, it's simpler, more carefully curated, and a far cry from those DIY outfits that melted in the sun. Read on to learn how this Steel City native transformed her look into a true representation of herself and her trend-setting role in the fashion industry.

    Get your style fix at Nordstrom Rack's new store, opening August 26 at The Block Northway in Pittsburgh.
    Get details here.

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    The coolest thing about my hometown is... "It’s a hard-working place. It’s small, so people really get to know each other, and it’s very big on supporting locals. There is a heavy audience for art and photography. You get a little bit of city living, but it’s still suburban. I love home."

    You can spot someone from Pittsburgh if they're wearing... "Coveralls, overalls, workwear. There's also sports influences. We are very big on supporting our local teams, so I think that contributed to the sporty aspect in my style."

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    When I was younger, my style was... "Very quirky and colorful. I feel that living in a small city contributed to my need-to-be-seen attitude. I was fairly shy in middle school but when high school came, I was like, What can I do to be able to communicate? I really pushed my personality into my style. I was always at the thrift store hunting down designers or tearing up used things, and sometimes it would bring controversy. People would ask me, 'Why would you even dress like that? It looks so weird.' I would then be able to explain why the piece was important to me, and it actually bonded me with people. After a while, you could spot me from a mile away."

    The one thing you'll NEVER see me wear again is... "A pair of jeans I made from Kool-Aid wrappers when I was in 10th grade. I didn’t clean the packets well and ended up getting caught in the rain with dye running down me. Then there was a Skittles vest — I went to a concert and they melted on my arm. There were a lot of questionable things I wore. It’s been a long journey to get to where I’m at today!"

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    The biggest change in how I approach my style today is that... "Comfort is my number one thing. In the past, I would wear something that I knew looked good but that I would have to keep messing with all day. Now I stay away from that. It’s more about creating a reflection of me. I dress to my mood. I really care about the pieces that I have on. Right now I have on three oversized T-shirts that I got for $5 from some guy selling them on the street. The whole outfit speaks for itself, so I don’t have to add on much more. I can just let one thing shine and really allow a piece or a silhouette to be the story."

    Some of my style signatures include... "A lot of pieces from the past that really speak to me and are also conversation starters, like old jerseys that my dad passed down. I’ll pair a jersey with a silver slip dress so there's a contrast that brings more to the table. That’s why I like low-key pieces, like band tees. There’s always a story that I’m able to share."

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    The piece of advice that's stuck with me most since moving to New York is... "'Say you’re in an elevator and you run into so-and-so — what would your tagline be?' I’m a designer, so I need to look like a designer, whether it means throwing on a piece that I’ve made or just generally looking the part. I get that pressure living here. But I feel like it also helps to challenge me and my style. My outfit is definitely my elevator pitch."

    One of my favorite style thrills is... "Going back to Pittsburgh. I feel like I finally found my personal style and my real self. People don’t really judge you on your clothes or style here in New York. Sometimes I like to get away, and I'll throw on anything because I've gotten so used to this and [assume that] nobody’s going to question your taste in Pittsburgh. They’ll be like, ‘You look a little crazy, but okay.'"

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