For a Southern boy, Billy Reid sure does like winter. That's because Reid — who was raised in Louisiana and bases his business in Florence, Alabama, with thriving stores in Houston, Dallas and Austin — gets a kick out of designing coats and other outerwear.
"It's my favorite category to work on," he said backstage before his New York Fashion Week show at the cloister-like Highland Hotel.
His fall/winter collection boasts an abundance of terrific-looking coats in blanket stripes, wallpaper jacquards, brushed plaids and houndstooth patterns. For his show, Reid even included some models with stadium blankets wrapped around their blanket-patterned coats.
"Our female customers buy a lot of men's pieces. Our men's customers buy women's pieces," Reid said. "It just sort of happens."
"It started as an idea of developing blankets, and that sort of led us to a whole new way of developing fabrications and textiles," he said. "That's what I love to do."
Just about every model who strolled the length of the hotel's Refectory — a Gothic hall that served as the dining space in an Episcopalian seminary and is one of the nicest settings I've seen in a decade of covering Fashion Week activities — was swathed in eye-catching outerwear. The varied looks included a mustard-colored cashmere duffle, fur-lined parkas, a leather pea coat and a furry rabbit vest over a fleece-lined hoodie.
Several overcoats in soft brushed fabric dipped to calf level, while a nubby alpaca shirt jacket was cut close to the body, along with trim cargo pants in dark blue or green. Shades of blue and indigo mixed with toasty colors of gold and bordeaux (the latter in a pair of body-hugging velvet pants).
"We always show a lot of tailored garments. That's a big part of our business," Reid said. "Customers have really been responding to uniqueness, whether it be shape or fabrication. Also we're getting really good response in our stores to luxury, whether it be cashmere or touches of fur."
Slacks were cut a little looser like track pants, and whimsical dancing foxes dotted some sweaters. Shirts were oversized, because doesn't every man's wardrobe need at least one rumpled white shirt that hangs to mid-thigh? It's likely that women will cotton to the big boyfriend shirts as well.
While developing his collections for both sexes (although only menswear was shown in New York), Reid found that they started to influence each other.
"You put that soft blanket shape on a man, and he can looked rugged, but on a woman it can have a totally different feel. I love playing with that," Reid said. "Our female customers buy a lot of men's pieces. Our men's customers buy women's pieces. It's not anything intentional; it just sort of happens. It's kind of fun to balance that and see where it takes you."
Reid, who said he always gets nervous before a show, is considerably more relaxed when visiting his boutiques. He is planning trips to his Texas stores soon for a little freshening up.
"It's like a well-visited house," he said. "Sometimes you have to turn the furniture, put on some new paint, change the racks. We're going to have some fun with it. It's almost like a reopening of the environment."