Southern Style: Q&A With Billy Reid

Florence, Ala.-based designer Billy Reid recently set up shop in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood. The 2,500-square-foot store—Reid’s seventh—offers men's, women's, and accessories collections in a setting filled heirloom photographs, salvaged wood, vintage furniture and found materials. Here, Where talks shop with the designer, who in 2010 received the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) “Best New Menswear Designer” award, was named GQ’s “Best new menswear designer in America” and was awarded the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Prize.

Can you tell us about the Billy Reid label?
We launched in late 2004. I had originally started my own collection, William Reid, in fall of 1997, and had some unfortunate circumstances that forced me to close that business in 2002. After struggling with attempts to keep the collection afloat and various freelance projects, I was approached by some friends with the idea to open retail shops. It also gave me the freedom to build product without the limitations of another retailer. In other words, if we wanted to put in the shop, then we'd make it and sell it. The result helped us create a full collection of clothing and accessories and build an environment to tell the story.

What about the Billy Reid lifestyle—the two seem to go hand in hand.
We strive to put a lot of integrity into what we do and it's important for it to all come together as one message. We want to become a part of the community, like what we have here in Florence, Alabama and our neighborhood in New York. We love including our friends in that movement whether it be food, music, art, or whatever. For us it is not something we really think about, it just something we do and it is rewarding to watch people respond to it.

2010 was a big year for you. What’s the most exciting thing that came out of that?
We were incredibly fortunate to have been a part of the GQ Award and The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. We never dreamed that we would have that opportunity. So grateful to everyone who made it possible. The relationships we have built and continue to build through the awards have been tremendous for our business and awareness. The funds from the awards allowed us to open a wholesale showroom in New York City, to expand our warehouse in Alabama, build our website and to further invest in our staffing. It really hasn't changed our vision; if anything, it helped give us confidence to stay the course.

So, why Atlanta? And why the Westside? Why is it a good fit?
We've been looking at Atlanta for quite a while. It's a such an unbelievable city and we have more customers in our database from Atlanta than any other city where we do not have a shop. When we open a new shop, we try to focus on a neighborhood that feels like a place where we want to hang out and become a member of that community. The Westside has that and we can't wait to be a part of it.

Can you please describe the store.
We want our shop to feel like you are coming into our home. We build it out with residential touches, many of those ideas come from the home my wife and I restored in Florence. We combine that with the fact that it is actually a shopping environment, but hospitality is of the utmost importance.

What do you think about the Atlanta fashion scene?
There's great shopping in Atlanta and style is certainly not lacking. We only hope to be a part of the wardrobe in that scene.

What was the inspiration behind the latest collection?
I spent some great time in Paris and London this past year and I've thoroughly enjoyed mixing that vibe into the collection. I combined this sense of European sophistication with the heritage of Southern culture and history.

What are some must-have items?
We love experimenting with the non-typical. Whether that's wash treatments on leather, or sourcing unique vintage fabrics. Outerwear is key for fall, and this season we added in some more luxurious materials such as wools, fox fur and Nutria fur to create some really elegant coats and jackets. I think it is also important that outerwear is functional, so there is a great cotton puffer jacket and a short parka jacket that is entirely lined with Nutria fur.

What is the most important garment in a man's wardrobe?
Navy blazer. Yes, boring, but still the most versatile piece you can own. Just get it fit, so you can wear it with everything.

What are the most common male fashion mistakes?
Most guys have issues with fit. Don't be intimidated to try something new and asking questions from the store staff is good, too. You want to make the most informed decision on what fits for you so that you're comfortable and confident.

Describe your perfect outfit.
Personally? I'm very simple. Usually solid colors, sturdy classic pieces, Levi’s flair cords.