10 Questions for Tracy Reese

The clothing designer talks about getting serious about shoes.

5. How does this most recent line differ from the earlier collections?
TR: There’s a lot more attention to detail, from the soles to how the heels are built. At the end of the day, that adds up to being a much more quality product. There’s a lot more value for the money. You’re looking at a shoe that is retailing for $225, [compared with] the shoe we were doing in Italy for $425. [The move to China] was kind of well timed with everything going on in the economy.

6. How do you plan to grow the line?
TR: We’re taking it one step at a time. Even with the clothing, we’re finding it’s better to rein it in and present something that’s tight and focused. It doesn’t make sense to show too much product because buyers don’t have the budget. [But in the long term], we want to strategically grow the [footwear] business by focusing on high-end specialty stores and better-grade department stores and provide the customer [with a] Tracy Reese [look] from head to toe.

7. Are there plans to sell your shoes independent of the clothing?
TR: They’ll always be connected. My inspiration for each season is reflected in both the apparel and footwear offerings, and our goal is to create footwear that coordinates with our ready-to-wear collection, yet is also unique, stylish and fashion-forward enough to stand alone. [But the shoes and clothing] will always feed off each other and enhance each other.

8. What is the look of the collection?
TR: It’s an extension of the clothing collection: feminine and stylish options for women looking for quality and beautiful design. But if I do a feminine dress, it shouldn’t go out with feminine shoes — that’s too much sugar. We have to find a balance between what goes with the collection and what speaks to the brand image.

9. Footwear is pretty new to you. What do you like most about the process?
TR: I love seeing the final product — how an inspirational element, such as a flower or a painting, is reflected and evolves into a fabulous stiletto. Also, getting the samples in, making edits and then seeing the final product come through is just a thrill.

You’re known for vintage appeal. Do you have a favorite fashion era?
TR: It’s hard to pick just one. I love the femininity seen in the 1920s, the demure sexiness of the 1940s and the dazzle and glitter of the 1970s. The 1930s were very romantic, but very refined, and there were incredible women designers who offered a different level of reality to the mix.

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