Gillian Bradley of Harper Ray is an Accessory to Fashion
As I walked into Harper Ray, I couldn’t help but notice the street-inspired decor. The girly graffiti and gate on the wall was not only a reflection of the customers of the brand but also the owner. Gillian Bradley took the creativity that she possessed as a child and evolved it into a household name.
The idea of the Southfield-based accessory store came about while Bradley was in highschool. During that time, the trend that was all the rave was the earrings that were debuted on Basketball Wives. She began making them for herself and soon enough people began requesting her to make them. Bradley’s favorite class at the time was her jewelry class because it would allow her to mold, weld, and create her own pieces. She would often come home and brag to her family about the piece that she had made. Little did she know that her love for creativity would make her brand recognized in metro Detroit and beyond.
The journey of Harper Ray was not always smooth. Initially, all of the jewelry that she was selling was handmade. As Gillian transitioned to college life at Michigan State University, her class and work schedules would not permit her to maintain an equal balance between the demands of the business. Over the course of six years, the business was on and off again; however, Bradley’s focus on the business was on the up during her senior year.
“I would still do stuff even when I was taking my breaks but it was like hey people still want stuff. Let me try again. And that’s just when I kind of shifted how I was running the business. So I stopped making stuff and started wholesale,” Bradley said.
She realized that ordering items from a wholesaler allowed her to be able to balance her school work and business. From working out of her dorm, Bradley saw the importance of being a vendor at pop-up shops. She was able to directly interact with her customers as well as attract new customers. By doing pop-ups, it was another climb on the journey to building Harper Ray because Bradley had to learn to create a strong rapport with all of her clients.
If you take a look Harper Ray’s Instagram, Gillian is the face of her brand and she has great social media marketing. Though she comes up with many of the ideas herself, she turns to her friends to help her ideas come full circle. In the era of millennials being so multifaceted in their career endeavors, Issa Rae’s concept of working across is essential especially for small businesses. She often collaborates with her friends, one of which is a photographer and the other is a social media manager, to collaborate with her to keep Harper Ray’s marketing strong.
“I’m very creative. That’s something I take pride in, but I do have a team of people kind of like a support system that I bounce everything off of,” Bradley said. “These are people that I love dearly and that love me back just as much so they feel like part of this is theirs, too. They promote it like it’s theirs and I have no issues with that. I help them the same way.”
Though the visuals for Harper Ray are on point, Bradley shockingly admits that photoshoots are not her favorite despite how effortless they look. However, her clients solely engage with the content that features Gillian. Her great experiences with customers at pop-up shops and creative visuals have a great impact so much so that she noticed the change in sales and engagement when she started to post photoshoot with models wearing the accessories.
“My customers don’t want to see anybody else,” Bradley said.
Gillan would describe the Harper Ray girl as “bold, in tune with herself, and confident.” As Harper Ray grows she keeps in mind to not take anything personally and maintain stellar customer service. Though Harper Ray currently has a storefront, she plans to go back to vending at events.
To check out what Harper Ray, please visit www.shopharperray.com!