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Billy Reid, this year’s winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, isn’t your typical up-and-coming fashion talent. Based in Florence, Ala., the Amite, La., native has been in business since 1997, focusing predominantly on men’s wear including tailored separates, jeans, T-shirts, shoes and bags. His men’s wear aesthetic also informs his capsule women’s collection, which he launched in 1999 and has been quietly selling alongside his men’s looks.
The designer credited his mother, Tommy Jean Reid, for giving him his head start. “She had a women’s boutique when I was growing up called T.J.’s for Her,” he said. “It was in my grandmother’s old house, and I can only best describe it as ‘Steel Magnolias’ set in a clothing store. People gathered, and she had a terrific business. She steered me this way.”
While attending art school in Dallas, Reid worked at Saks Fifth Avenue, where he learned much about men’s clothing. He also worked at Reebok before launching his own line.
“In a lot of ways, it’s very personal,” he said of his approach. “I make things I want to wear. I am a traditionalist at heart. I am also a Southerner, and spend a lot of time between New York and Alabama. I like to make things that work well in the East Village or the woods of Alabama.”
As for winning the Fashion Fund, “Our focus is taking what we have and continuing to get it out there to grow it on a global basis. This is a huge opportunity.” On Tuesday, he wasn’t resting on his laurels. Reid was already busy making samples for the fall 2011 collection. “Work does not stop,” he said.
— Marc Karimzadeh