When we last left Billy Reid a season ago, the Florence, Alabama-based designer had scooped up the GQ/CFDA Best New Menswear Designer in America award and was short-listed for the CFDA/VogueFashion Fund prize. Now he’s taken that one, too (and in a competitive field, which included Prabal Gurung, Altuzarra, and other big names). Last season, Reid showed in a bustling room on the eighth floor of Milk Studios. This time it was the penthouse. Hard not to read a little something into that.
The man’s star is on the rise, and he knows he’s got more eyes on him than ever before. Make no mistake: He didn’t disappoint. The menswear on show was classic Reid: masculine suiting mixed with more workmanly pieces, cut on the slightly looser side—a little rope in the shoulder and a slight boot-cut to the pants. Reid’s fabrics are those of traditional menswear: wool and tweed, camel hair and moleskin, cotton and cord. He’s not above a luscious (if subtle) flourish, like a formal dinner jacket in un-dyed velvet, but his aesthetic is masculine and untrendy. Like the designer himself, it’s tried-and-true.
Reid did himself a service by refining the Southern twang of his show, which always resided as much in the spirit and the staging of his work as in the clothes themselves. That even extended to the set, pared down this season from the mud-and-all Alabama haul-in antique doors and weathered floorboards he used to use. Here, the sparer environment refocused attention on the clothes (including, for the first time in a Reid presentation, a few women’s looks, which had a slinky appeal of their own).
The one potential quibble is that the offering might have been a bit too tried-and-true; this wasn’t a season marked by change. But perhaps that’s just how Reid needs it to be right now, given that plenty of the visitors dropping in are playing catch-up to his work. (The South, where he has several stores, has been on the bandwagon for years.) Reid showed the best of what he does tonight. But here’s the tricky thing about the spotlight: Next season, people will be clamoring to see the next twist in the tale.