Billy Reid: The Menswear Man

Saks Fifth Avenue welcomes the designer into the fold. Again.
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Menswear is on a bit of an upswing of late. And don’t take it from us (or the men’s fashion mags, for that matter): look no further than the inveterate success of one Billy Reid. Since his surprise win of the 2010 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award (beating boldfacers Joseph Altuzarra, Eddie Borgo and Prabal Gurung, no less), Reid has become one of menswear’s leading lights, all from his home base in tiny Florence, Alabama. Now, as his collection finally arrives at Saks Fifth Avenue, he’s coming back to where it all began.

Saks New York welcomed Reid on Wednesday night as he launched his Spring/Summer 2014 collection accompanied by a Q&A with Esquire Fashion Director Nick Sullivan. Beforehand, the designer chatted with us about the menswear resurgence and what Saks has meant to his career (spoiler: it’s meant a lot).

Menswear seems to matter more than ever right now. Do you agree?
Reid: Totally. There’s been really passionate editorial support throughout menswear recently. In the last five years or so, people are really getting out the information online. All of us in menswear have benefited.

And what does that exposure do?
Reid: Really, it ushers the customer along. The younger generation cares and stays on top of it—they know the brands, they know the designers, and they care about quality. They follow that stuff. People pay attention and thank goodness men pay attention to it now.

Saks Fifth Avenue is kind of where it all began for you, isn’t it?
Reid: I started my career here. I was going to school in Dallas and I got a job at Saks. They put me in men’s suits because I knew a little bit about it. I worked with these guys in their 50s and 60s—veteran menswear, made-to-measure guys.

Sounds like a good education.
Reid: Working at Saks was unbelievable. At that time, Ralph Lauren was starting to get big. Tommy Hilfiger had just started. Armani…Versace…I got to see all of them working at Saks, studying those collections and working with those companies. I learned from some really great people working there. I had no plan going in, but those years at Saks really laid the foundation for a lot of things.

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Manolo Meets Manhattan

Inside the mind of a master at his first New York Fashion Week presentation.

The temperatures may have been steadily dropping, but even the threat of snow and ice couldn’t keep oft-jaded fashion insiders away from Manolo Blahnik’s first-ever New York Fashion Week presentation. Inside Chelsea’s Paul Kasmin Gallery, guests explored the imagination of one of fashion’s ultimate masters. The collection swung—as if in mid-flight—among the crowds while a projected quartet of films literally and figuratively illuminated Blahnik’s inspirations. As for the collection itself? A sumptuous display of east-meets-west ornamentation: here, a lushly embroidered boot; there, a pink satin bottine in crystals and studs. After taking it all in, you’re left to wonder what may have inspired this frenzied flight of fancy and why (luckily for us) Blahnik debuted it in New York. Fortunately, he was able to satisfy…

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The temperatures may have been steadily dropping, but even the threat of snow and ice couldn’t keep oft-jaded fashion insiders away from Manolo Blahnik’s first-ever New York Fashion Week presentation. Inside Chelsea’s Paul Kasmin Gallery, guests explored the imagination of one of fashion’s ultimate masters. The collection swung—as if in mid-flight—among the crowds while a projected quartet of films literally and figuratively illuminated Blahnik’s inspirations.

As for the collection itself? A sumptuous display of east-meets-west ornamentation: here, a lushly embroidered boot; there, a pink satin bottine in crystals and studs. After taking it all in, you’re left to wonder what may have inspired this frenzied flight of fancy and why (luckily for us) Blahnik debuted it in New York. Fortunately, he was able to satisfy our curiosity with his signature sense of wit.

Does your spring collection have an overarching theme?
Blahnik: There are a lot of different influences…turn-of-the-20th-century richness and elegance, Boldini paintings—especially the portraits of elegantly dressed, sophisticated women—and obviously details coming from my beloved Spain.

What’s one style rule you wish women would break? And would adhere to?
Blahnik: I wish all women always had an immaculate manicure and pedicure. Grooming is very important! But no one should wear a matching bag with shoes. It’s a trend very much of the past and I never liked it.

Why did you decide to present for the first time in New York?
Blahnik: We had a very successful London presentation last season so I decided, why not do the same in New York? I wanted people everywhere to see the thoughts behind my creations!


Lights, Camera, Fashion

The New York Fashion Film Festival unspools in Chelsea.

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Irreverence, fantasy, and an electrifying bass reverberated at the 5th annual New York Fashion Film Festival last week in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. Filmmakers, photographers and the fashion crowd packed the SVA Theater, and our own Saks Fifth Avenue editors sat front and center.

Co-founded by photographer Bon Duke, he says the festival began “out of pure will to expose what was out there and show them on a big screen compared to a small device.” This year’s edition screened 16 films, followed by fashion stalwart and iconic editor/writer Glenn O’Brien’s panel discussion about whether the showcased works were, in his words, “really films or merely screen-savers”.

On the eve of New York Fashion Week, veteran fashion consultant Julie Gilhart deliberated on the intense and fast impressions the films make: “We all see so many runway shows, and when it’s over, it’s over. [Fashion Week] is a grueling schedule. I’d rather watch a film.”

So what were the panelists’ favorites? Steven Meisel’s Show Girl, featuring an anti-fashion burlesque dancer, proved to be O’Brien’s, while Gilhart’s pick was Pierre Debusschere’s abstract Holy Flowers – Fade Into You. Photographer Cass Bird endorsed Habib Yazdi’s Somewhere in America and Matt Lambert’s The London Collections for their documentary-like portrayals of fashion in “real life”, and Sylvain Labs founder Alain Sylvain, sheepishly smiled and professed to “enjoy the hip hop.”

Four panelists, each with their own favorites. Go figure: in fashion, film, and fashion films, everyone has a feeling, but no one has a magic formula.


Saks Inside: Rag & Bone at NYFW

Go backstage at Rag & Bone's NYFW runway show.

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Saks Inside: Diane von Furstenberg at NYFW

Go backstage at Diane von Furstenberg's NYFW runway show.