From menswear to moonshine, country's strong
Even before heading off to the men's fall and winter 2011-12 runway shows in Milan and Paris earlier this month, I'd started gathering string on the surging popularity of all things country. And it wasn't just "True Grit" at the box office and Taylor Swift on the album charts either; rural America was resonating on the runways of New York Fashion Week and ringing the registers at a Beverly Hills auction house.
How else can you explain the fact that Billy Reid -- the fashion designer whose rough-hewn meets refined / slightly bent Southern gent aesthetic won him both GQ magazine's "Best New Menswear Designer in America" competition and the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award in the same calendar year -- is based not in New York City or Los Angeles but Florence, Ala.?
From Milan I spoke with Reid -- who was in the process of getting ready for New York Fashion Week -- if he'd noticed it. "I certainly do," he said. "It's something that's always just been part of who I am and what I do, and I do have to say it's nice to see other people coming around," he said with a self-deprecating chuckle.
What he couldn't tell me -- for certain -- was if the result was anything quantifiable at the register. "We've had an uptick in our business, yes," Reid said. "But honestly, it's hard to say whether it's because of that or because of winning those two awards."
But, by the time I was boots on the ground back in Los Angeles, the gathered string had started to feel like the world's largest ball of twine; even the runways of Europe reflected the trappings of country or western references (but apparently not "country-and-western"; I'm told using that term -- especially when referring to the music genre -- is a serious faux pas) and "True Grit" had corralled 10 Academy Award nominations.
So I saddled up, dug in my spurs, and tried a little roundup of my own. You can read the story -- which will appear in the Jan. 30 Image section -- here.
If you can pull yourself away from FarmVille, that is.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photo: The finale of the DSquared2 men's fall and winter 2011 runway show during Milan Fashion Week. The label is one of many that have recently turned to the trappings of rural America for inspiration. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson & Peter Stigter / For The Times.