On NYFWM: Billy Reid

by William Buckley

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 20:  Fashion designer Billy Reid poses for photos during the Billy Reid celebration for Tony nominee Alex Sharp on May 20, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Billy Reid)

Fashion week is getting close, are you all set?
Yes and no. Of course it’s a little earlier than usual so we are all slightly scrambling. But, there’s always that kind of panic and then everything comes together at the last minute. The good thing is that market starts at the same time, so this is really going to be the first season that any of us will have the opportunity to show the collection on the runway before retailers come to place orders. Typically that happens seven weeks later; just because of the way fashion week has fallen on the calendar.

Do you think this will drastically change business? Is it going to increase business?
I think it absolutely has potential to increase business. I think it gives a chance to better the whole integrity of the effort. The way this has worked in the past, is that we would make samples and we would put them on the rack in our showroom. Then the retailers come and preview that and they select. At that point we can guide them and say “we think you should buy this” about whatever particular item we want to hit home with them, but there isn’t that visual or that energy you have from a runway show or a presentation, which really does set a wholly accurate tone for what the collection should be about. Having that opportunity really does give the retailer more insight into what the inspiration truly is from the designer’s perspective, and what pieces we really care about, what shapes we really care about.

The way it worked before, it was a much more press-driven event, do you think that more buyers will attend the shows?
I do. I think it will be a lot of fun to have folks from all over the country, some that have never been to fashion week, participating. It will bring a whole new dynamic to the event itself. I think they’ll be excited. Looking from the outside in, the energy of a runway show looks exciting, so I think those folks having the ability to participate at the same time that they’re making buying decisions is really a great thing. That’s the way it works in Europe, which will help us level that field. It won’t happen overnight but it is a really great step towards that.

Do you think that American designers might gain a greater market share in the bigger international stores?
It’s certainly a possibility and it’s definitely the right decision to have it aligned with the sales effort, I think it’s really important. It’s something that I can remember having discussions about 15 years ago: “How we can bring those two things together, the sales and marketing part of the business into one?”  I think for the American market to get on that calendar, a little closer to when the buying decisions are being made, is critical; it’s something that really has to happen. If not, then we would still be doing a runway show in September, with all of our orders for that season already wrapped in mid-August. The press and marketing component was worth it but now it is doubly so.

Do you think we will get to a point where people just show in their respective counties?
That’s a great point, I’ve never really thought of it in that way. I do think it is great to see American designers supporting American fashion week. I think that really is a tipping point. If we can all come together to make it powerful, there are so many great American brands, if we can get all of those folks into the same basket, it makes the entire effort that much stronger. That really is one of the keys to success for NYFWM; I think it’s vital. That said, European markets are very important and we’ll still go to Europe and participate in Pitti Uomo and do all of those things, because it’s a global business and that’s how we stay in contact with the global market, by participating.

What can we expect from the Billy Reid collection this season?
I’m so excited. You know, you are so close to it for all of those months working on every single detail. The past few seasons we have really tried to bring a sort of relaxed sophistication. More than ever, people want to be comfortable but you also want to look terrific. Trying to combine that softness with sophistication is really what I’m focused on, especially in the textile development. We’ve really softened and lightened fabrications, which we really think will show well. There are also so many crossovers between our men’s and women’s collections, whether it be the fabrications we’re developing or even a shape. So really, all of those influences come together for our spring collection.