Fashion Week Primer: Five Questions for Billy Reid

As Fashion Week approaches, we're checking in with some of our favorite designers to see how they're coping with the chaos of planning a presentation. Billy Reid, whose preppy Americana aesthetic blends equal parts Southern refinery and downtown hip and recently won him the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award, says that at the end of the day, it's all about "introducing the work we've put so much of ourselves into" to an appreciative audience.

Where are you from originally?

Amite, Louisiana.

How long have you been working in fashion?

My mother had a women's boutique in our small town of Amite, Louisiana where I grew up.  Her shop was located in my grandmother's old home and she influenced my path to the industry at an early age. I started school at Southeastern Louisiana University and later went to art school at the Art Institute of Dallas.

We launched in late 2004. I had originally started my own collection, William Reid, in Fall of 1997, and had some unfortunate circumstances that forced me to close that business in 2002. After taking some time off and taking on freelance projects, I was approached by some friends with the idea to re-launch start a collection by way of a new business model, by building through our own shops. Typically, wholesaling to other stores is the first step. This strategy gave us the opportunity to control the shopping experience, the environment and message and essentially helped us build a foundation of good customers.  It also gave me the freedom to build product without the limitation, in other words, if we wanted to put it in the shop, then we'd make it and sell it.

You've coined the term "Southern-bred luxury" in previous interviews. Can you describe what that means to you?

I'm not sure about that, but basically, we build a ton of integrity into the product and primarily manufacture in the USA and Italy. I live and work in Florence, Alabama, and I'm a Southerner.  So I guess that's how that phrase got started, but I really don't know where it came from.

What's the most stressful thing about Fashion Week?

Everything! It's so many factors coming together, whether it be samples, model fittings, building the stage, catering, press, customers, styling, logistics, etc. It all has to be executed with precision and you pray people like it.

5) And what's the most exciting?

Introducing the work that we've put so much of ourselves into. We are forever grateful to so many people that have supported the collection. That makes everything worthwhile and heart warming.

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