Billy Reid Amps Up the Elegance

Martin Marks

Oh, but to spend a few brief moments in the charm and sweetness and eminent dappertude--a word I've just invented especially for this occasion--of Billy Reid's F/W 2012 collection, shown last night at Eyebeam Studio. 

The audience, many of them with DogFish beer in hand, couldn't help but be entranced by the Florence (that would be Alabama, not Italy) based designer's latest work. This was, after all, his first runway show, and with this bold leap, he seems to have left behind many of the elements of country nostalgia that added a certain boyish twang to his earlier collections. Instead, he embraced a definitely glamorous, though definitely still nostalgic vision.

The collection was a study in the subtleties of gray--heather grays, charcoal grays, and icy grays, being just a few. With these shades, he both balanced the crisp lines of a double-breasted flannel suit and refined the slouchiness of a pair of wool herringbone slacks, leaving a sense of softness throughout. Add to this his pastel palette--the dusty orange of a distressed suede coat, the hint of bronze orange in a shawl lapel, the sky blues or the soft lavenders--and we see that in Reid's hands and with the correct balance, even a man's man can wear pastel, and that the darkness of winter need not be dark at all. The double-breasted coats with shawl collars were the stuff that dreams are made of; this outerwear, even with its with rugged overtones, retained its elegance. I'd be remiss in not mentioning the light cashmere dinner jacket that closed the show, or the navy and brown cardigan, especially as it was paired with the blue velvet trousers and wool hopsack jacket. 

Reid's womenswear moved from the casual study he presented in previous seasons into Old Hollywood-esque territory--all the while still maintaining his unique sartorial vision. Exaggerated proportions of the lapels on a trench coat and the cardigan with a peter pan collar all had a distinct Reidian feel to them. On full display was his sense of edgy femininity, as seen in the blue and black pencil skirt matched with an inspired black leather motorcycle jacket. His various frocks and creations certainly weren't boy's clothes being worn by a girl, or the vision of a menswear designer dabbling in a women's world; they were, quite simply, his take on what women in Billy's world should wear.

Pictured above: backstage at the Billy Reid show.

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