ABOUT THe designer & The Process
Jessica Perdomo, Founder and CEO of J.J. Gray, epitomizes a mix of guts, compassion, talent and humility. Following a fruitful career with Ralph Lauren and other luxury brands, she started her own line of handcrafted riding boots and Oxfords. Her inspiration and devotion to her business is the product of her low-income childhood in Corona, Queens, where at age thirteen, marred by an embarrassing hole she had ripped into her sneakers, she made a vow to herself: she would never feel ashamed of poverty again.
She proved her industrious nature at the time by working as a cashier at her local bodega and selling lemonade at Belmont Racetrack to pay for a new pair of shoes and help support her family. Her grandfather was a tailor and her grandmother cared for others as a home health aid; through their tutelage she built grit and adopted their resilience.
Like Jessica, J.J. Gray’s line of artisanal shoes embodies timelessness, craftsmanship and old world values. “Our shoes define us, perhaps too much so,” she says. As is the case with so many of life’s greatest treasures Perdomo found her shoes by accident. On a trip to the south of Spain, she met a family who had been making custom shoes for three generations, having perfected a last that is treated on all J.J. Gray shoes. The family sources its supple calfskin from local tanneries that do not use harsh chemicals to treat their hides, and cannot be found in the States.
Since the launch of the company, J.J. Gray shoes have appeared in Vogue, Univision, Footwear News and other publications. Jess’s commitment to growing J.J. Gray is rivaled only by her passion for giving back; the company plans to donate sneakers to children in need. “Confidence comes from both the soul and the sole,” Perdomo says. “Everyone deserves to have a pair of shoes on their feet that feels good to wear and makes them feel good too.”