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New York Fashion Week: Opportunity knocks, and Billy Reid's at the door(s)

September 17, 2010 |  4:43 pm

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Billy Reid told us the set design for his menswear presentation was inspired by the work of Clarence John Little, a photographer whose work focused on the decaying, abandoned buildings of New Orleans and the surrounding South in the period from the '20s to the '40s.

"I was born in Louisiana, and the effect of the oil spill in the Gulf was very much on my mind when we were finishing up the collection," he said. But after we had a chance to chat with the Florence, Ala.-based designer, the backdrop of  the many salvaged wooden doors made us think of a different, and much more upbeat, symbolism -- there are a lot of doors opening for the  menswear designer these days, thanks to his ability to tap into, and riff off of, nostalgic Americana.

In February, during the last New York Fashion Week, it was announced that Reid had won GQ magazine's "Best New Designer" award, one of the perks of which was the opportunity to design a capsule collection with Levi's.  On Sept. 14,  that collaboration  rolled out to the shelves of Bloomingdale's: a handful of workwear pieces inspired by an old blacksmith's apron he had found in the Levi Strauss archives.

Levi's Workwear by Billy Reid, Made in the USA, includes jeans, button-front shirts in denim and oxford cloth, a T-shirt and a tote bag -- based on that stained and abraded white duck cloth apron (pieces range from $45 to $178 and are available at billyreid.com and bloomingdales.com).

His spring-summer 2011 presentation, which managed to meld disparate aspects of the dapper gentleman (suit jackets and calf-length beach pants in blue patchwork madras, navy flanneled linen herringbone suits, peach foulard bow ties, seersucker cutoffs) with the hard-wearing wardrobe of the coastal denizens (cotton twill marsh jackets, leather lineman jackets, duck field pants) included hats from an ongoing Stetson collaboration, and he pointed out to us the faded-looking canvas duck/twill tennis shoes worn by some of the models. 

"That's a new collaboration with K Swiss we're introducing tonight," Reid said. "They're  based on an old pair of K Swiss tennis shoes I've had for 25 years. (The shoes, for men and women, will be available in mid-January, and retail for $95.)

We asked the designer if his rising profile in the menswear world and accolades like the GQ award have opened a lot of new doors -- making it easier to approach companies  about collaborations  or side projects such as the small collection of messenger bags and satchels (all handmade in the USA) he's about to debut.

"Yes, it has made it a bit easier," Reid said.

And we expect to see a lot more doors opening for Reid.

-- Adam Tschorn in New York

Billy Reid spring - summer 2011 runway collection photo gallery

Photos: Looks from the Billy Reid spring - summer 2011 runway collection shown during New York Fashion Week. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson & Peter Jonas / For The Times.

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