Billy Reid Interview
Written By: Sachin Bhola
Written For: AskMen.com
“Southern-bred luxury” isn’t a term you’d expect to hear in menswear. If this were a physics class, we’d make a case for the South and luxury having diamagnetic properties in relation to fashion’s magnetic field. Intense.
And it takes an intense designer to bounce back from September 11, 2001, when William “Billy” Reid was forced to leave New York and return to his native Florence, Alabama. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, as the designer reconnected with his homegrown aesthetic and salvaged his momentum.
We wanted to know more. So AskMen.com caught up with Billy Reid at New York Fashion Week: Fall 2010 to check out his presentation at Milk Studios (not exactly a hop, skip and jump from the Mississippi line) and found ourselves partying the night away at the Hotel Gansevoort with Billy, toasting to (what else?) southern-bred luxury.
About Billy Reid
Sachin Bhola: Can you give us some background on the Billy Reid label?
Billy Reid: The collection is all about American clothing. It blends deep Southern roots with a downtown vibe, and I love to build pieces tough enough, and versatile enough, for both those worlds. It started in 2004 when friends approached me with an idea to open retail shops for the collection. The idea was that we would build an environment based on the interior influences and touches of our home here in Florence, Alabama. We would personalize every part of the retail experience. For me, it is about the things I do in life, and the clothes that I want to wear to support it.
Sachin: What’s the one thing you would like the public to know about Billy Reid that they are unaware of?
Billy: I would want them to know how much work and care we put into the collection. The quality and integrity of the effort is something we work so hard to present.
Men’s Fashion Today
Sachin: What is the most important garment in a man’s wardrobe; the one big-ticket fashion item that is worth its price tag?
Billy: Handmade boots and a handmade jacket or men’s suit. You will have them forever if they’re made well.
Sachin: Let’s talk about the state of the modern male wardrobe — what are the most common male fashion mistakes?
Billy: Buying things that are uncomfortable to wear is the biggest mistake. In other words, trying to be who you’re not. You must feel like you when you’re wearing the clothes, not vice versa.
Sachin: What advice do you have for men shopping in today’s economy?
Billy: Buy quality and versatility. Have better things that last and wear well, not just more things.
Sachin: What does luxury mean today, as we emerge from a global economic crisis?
Billy: Luxury today is about being able to use what you buy. It’s also about authenticity and whether the customer has an emotional or aspirational connection to what they’re purchasing.
Billy Reid On Style
Sachin: What male public figures are your style icons? Why?
Billy: William Faulkner, Gram Parsons, Jim Morrison, Johnny Cash, Westwick, Justin Townes Earle, Jack White, and Kris Kristofferson.
Sachin: What do you consider to be the world’s best fashion city for men?
Billy: New York, of course. But I’m biased.
Billy Reid’s Playlist
Sachin: What’s on your iPod playlist?
Billy: Everything from The Roots to George Jones, Ghostland Observatory to Iron and Wine, Led Zeppelin to Bobby Womack, to too many. I listen to everything.