Menswear Designer Billy Reid Wants to Make Less Stuff

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“There’s so much stuff out there,” says Billy Reid. “You can buy anything you want, any time you want it. So more and more our philosophy has been we want to make less things, better things, more special things, more meaningful things.”

A look from the fall/winter 2017 collection.

Courtesy Billy Reid

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SHOP Billy Reid: nordstrom.com

The Florence, Alabama-based designer has always dealt in thoughtfully produced clothing and accessories, but a trip with his team to New York, London, and Paris last year left him feeling like there’s an overabundance of options out there. “The world needs nothing,” he says laughing. That’s why, with his upcoming fall ’17 and spring ’18 collections, he’s been careful to create things that “have a sense of importance.”

“I think the challenge is to create something that has that sort of appeal,” he explains. “Whether it’s some kind of craft or something that makes it special and different, or there’s some sort of urgency because there’s a limited amount of them.” His latest K-Swiss collaboration, for instance, was made in the USA because he felt it was important. “The thought process was, ‘We’re not going to make as many, and they’re going to be more expensive, but we’re going to make them better.'” They’re currently selling so fast that he’s trying to reorder pairs from the factory in upstate New York.

Of course, that’s not the only recent success for Reid. He just wrapped up his ninth annual “Shindig,” an event in his hometown that started out small but has grown into, as he describes it, “a cultural explosion of food, art, music, fashion… even sport.” (Reid’s Alabama Slammers and Jack White’s Warstic Triples faced each other on the baseball diamond. White’s side came away with the W.)

At the Shindig No. 9.

Brett Warren

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Mixed in with live performances from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and food from a slew of renowned chefs, Reid hosted a fashion installation to present his spring/summer 2018 collection to the world. It was held at Frank Llyod Wright’s Rosenbaum House (the only Wright house in the South), and the timing was particularly appropriate—this year would have marked Wright’s 150th birthday.

“We’ve taken the space and sculpted these sort of lifelike figures and very unusual masks using various materials,” Reid says. Those materials run the gamut from ribbon tape to cotton labels, leather scraps, and dripped wax, giving the figures a quality somewhere between homey and entirely alien.

Looks from the spring/summer 2018 collection.

Brett Warren

Each of the looks—elegantly rumpled and ineffably cool, in true Ried fashion—was presented on those mannequins, which were staged to look right at home. “It’s about populating the space with our vibe. So it almost feels like a part of, and living in, the house.”

The world will have to wait until spring for the pieces to arrive in stores—in the meantime, there’s always fall ’17—but items like an striped, slubby sport coat and one particularly cool oversized poncho don’t feel like just another toss-off addition to our already overflowing closets. They feel considered and, yes, a little special. “It’s finding something that sends a spark,” says Reid. “That’ll make somebody buy it.”

A look from the spring 2018 collection.

Brett Warren



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