You meet a guy, and he’s everything you expected from a Southern gentleman. He’s handsome and polite, has a strong gait, watches Alabama football, drinks bourbon. And then you meet the woman with him. She’s mired in warmth, sophistication and charm. And you sigh as you realize she’s his woman, from her chiffon gown to her motorcycle jacket.
This was the couple we encountered over and over at Billy Reid’s F/W 2011 presentation at the penthouse of Milk Studios. Deeply Southern, steeped in tradition and comfort, tied to American craftsmanship with every look, cut and stitch. This is the first time Reid—last year’s recipient of GQ/CFDA’s New Menswear Designer of The Year Award, and the proud new owner of the manliest clothing shop in Soho—has shown womenswear, and the result is endearing.
“The greatest challenge to adding a women's line was dealing with expectations,” says Reid. “Ours and other people's, and completely ignoring those expectations. Because I wanted it to be feminine, and romantic, but there's an expectation that we would just make out men's clothes for women. And every time we started going that way we'd pull back. And we did take some of our menswear and tailor it for women, because that's what our customer wants. But we were really dedicated to making the women's line its own.”
I think the success here is that the dresses, skirts and jackets are very much their own thing, but not at all distant from the heirloom look that has become Reid’s signature.
As for the boys, how many collections could be inspired by “poetry of late 70’s Bruce Springsteen”? There’s a familiar bent of urban meets rural, utilitarian meets luxury—but fully fleshed out into tweeds, vests, henleys and wool trousers. For outerwear, Reid has constructed a double-breasted leather Horween coat, lined with Native American prints. His suits and jackets have a homey feel, but can be sophisticated too, like his chocolate moleskin, or the herringbone three-pocket jacket. Reid’s narrow oxfords come in colors like “eggplant,” and yes, there’s more corduroy here, in shirts and even an entire suit.
There’s a great balance to this collection—no stars, but an ensemble cast—and yet the footwear deserves acknowledgment. Reid continues to hand make his shoes and boots in Italy, using calf-skins, nubuck and cordovan and yet they project a durability and comfort that defies traditional luxury tropes.
The couple in these garments are not pretentious, blustery, effete, nor trivial; they’re handsome, sure of themselves, romantic and strong. The designer has his the mark between reliability and forward-thinking. Billy Reid is a good ol’ boy who just keeps getting better.