Ray Jake Carino: Fashion Designer on the Rise
In late August of 1994, Ray Jake Carino, 32, arrived to Canada from the Philippines. He could barely speak English. “Everyone that asked me questions, my answer was always ‘yes’ or ‘no,'” Carino said.
But he didn’t know all the possibilities that awaited him.
Growing up, Carino lived with his family in Rexdale, a small community located in Etobicoke, Ont. Prior to leaving the Philippines, Carino watched his first beauty pageant – something that was important to his culture. “Pageants are huge, it’s our Superbowl,” said Carino.
Through studying pageantry, Carino took a liking to evening gowns. However, when it was time to pursue fashion at a post-secondary level, Carino opted for interior design.
But his years as a student were short lived.
“I had one more year left of interior design and then I quit school…I got into retail,” said Carino.
While Carino worked in retail, he indulged in shows like Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model. These programs formed his newfound hobby – sketching.
“Those were my inspirations back in the day. That’s why I was sketching. It use to give me challenges every week… like ‘make a car inspired by this dress!” said Carino.
After running through three sketchbooks, Carino began to think about his future as a fashion designer, “what’s next? Do I keep drawing? Or do I want to see these come to life?”
So Carino took a leap of faith and quit his full-time job.
“I just did it because I knew it wasn’t for me anymore and I almost pictured who I wanted to be. I wanted to find the next level of myself and I knew that this was it. It was hard! Family members were not about it, friends we like ‘it’s a really hard industry, you have to be good.” said Carino.
Despite what his loved ones said, he listened to himself at the end of the day, despite what his loved ones said.
Carino went on to take three sewing classes, and the rest was history. His evening garments began to evolve and he was about embark on a new journey.
In November 2017, Carino launched EKAJ – a high-end evening-wear line that consisted of many intricate gowns. The name “EKAJ” stems from his middle name, Jake, something his father wanted as his first name because it payed homage to wrestler Jake the Snake. Carino said he got creative and spelt the brand’s name backwards to add an exotic touch.
Even prior to the launch of his line, Carino nabbed his first-ever client – Miss Pacific World winner, Beatrice Andrada. Before she won the title, Andrada reached out to Carino to sketch a gown for her to compete in. Based on the results, Carino began producing a sheer backless dress with beaded and crystal detailing for free.
“I spent four months of my time making that dress. Sewing over 3,000 crystals and over 1,500 pearls individually,” he said. For Carino, this gown made him very proud. “She won the pageant in that dress!”
Since then, Carino has added many more designs to his portfolio.
What sets him apart from other up-and-coming designers is his love for detail. “It’s the only way for me to express my artistic side through using beads and stones.” he said.
“I like to work with a blank base that way I can put my own embellishments. I love the glitz and the glam.”
Although Carino is in the early stages of his design career, he is just warming up.
He hopes that EKAJ will have everything it needs to succeed within five years.
“I hope to do Toronto Fashion Week! I would have a full team so that we are producing, I would also have a men’s collection, and plus size clothing for women,” he said.
To see more of Carino’s gowns, check out his official Instagram page: @ray_ekaj.