According to Brown, the switch was exactly what he needed. “Mercer had a hands-on approach and smaller class sizes.”
While at Mercer he was an on-air personality with the student radio station, WMCC. Upon graduation, Brown sidelined his interests in acting and journalism, and took a customer service job at Educational Testing Service in Princeton. Over time he was asked to become a software tester for the company, an occupation that followed him to IBM and later CrossView, where he works today as a quality assurance lead.
“Working with computers wasn’t my plan, but it’s the direction my career took,” said Brown, who continued to pursue his passion for acting on the side in New York City, and eventually started modeling, which is what first drew him to the fashion world.
While continuing to work full-time Brown began designing clothing for private clients in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He started holding fashion shows for his line, Ray Vincente Design Studio, at the West Trenton Ballroom. Brown began by creating specialty women’s wear, but eventually focused on high fashion sportswear for men, as well.
“It’s exciting to see how my line has matured. My men’s line is actually now stronger than my women’s line,” said Brown, adding that the men’s line was accepted much more quickly overseas than in the U.S. and he’s been able to sell his clothing in Europe via the Internet.
In 2008, Brown submitted some of his fashions to D.C. Fashion Week, and was chosen for the runway show. There, a scout saw his work and suggested him for New York Fashion Week. Since then he has consistently shown in New York, and has also participated in Philly and D.C. Fashion Weeks several times.
“It’s thrilling when you see your clothing on the runway completely styled for the first time,” Brown said. “You get to become your own critic.” He noted that he always leaves a show with something in mind he wants to improve for next time.
Over the years Brown has been invited to show his work in other ways, such as stylists asking him if they can use his work on their clients, and boutiques contacting him to sell his clothing line in their stores, such as EnVoi Boutique in Pittsburgh, PA. He was also recently asked to become the vice president of New York Men’s Fashion Week, with the first of two annual shows being held in June.
Brown, who earned his Fashion Merchandising degree from Penn Foster College in Scranton, PA, and also took courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, said the best advice he can give others who are interested in the industry is to start out with a good educational foundation.
“Complete your degree; it will teach you that this is not only a creative outlet, but a business,” said Brown, who said he’s seen colleagues fail because they didn’t focus enough on marketing themselves.
Brown said his ultimate goal is to have an international brand based in New Jersey, with all the clothing made locally in Trenton to help increase employment opportunities there. According to Brown, many of the designers he meets in New York have roots in New Jersey, including one who recently opened a store in Northern New Jersey.