or over three decades, Detroit native Tracy Reese has been driven to create “beautiful things.” Her iconic collection, a bold combo of prints and colors with fresh shapes and silhouettes, debuted in 1997 – and before that, in 1984, she earned a degree at Parsons School of Design in a fast-track three years.
Now, Reese – whose creations have graced magazines from Vogue to Essence and who counts Michelle Obama as one of her biggest fans – is taking her designs to another frontier: inclusive sizing beyond industry standards.
Reese sat down with BLAC during her New York Fashion Week at the New York Marble Cemetery back in September for a look into her world of fashion.
BLAC: You’ve made some changes this year – extended sizes, shows in cemeteries. What’s the motivation?
Reese: We’re so excited to also offer inclusive sizing starting with spring 2017. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Any time I have made appearances at stores, there are always customers asking for more extensive sizing. I have always included silhouettes that flatter different figures in the collection, but this will be the first season that we are expanding beyond traditional contemporary sizes 0-12. I am sure there is so much more that I will learn about the customer after this first foray. My goal is to increase the number of styles and categories we offer inclusive sizing in as the seasons progress.
BLAC: Your NYFW show featured a diverse number of skin tones and body types. What does the loyal Tracy Reese buyer look like?
Reese: Our cast was a great representation of our Tracy Reese customer: She’s a strong and confident woman with lots going on who wants to look fashion-forward and be comfortable as she goes through her day.
BLAC: There’s a new emergence of artists and designers in Detroit. Have you had a chance to connect with any of them?
Reese: I was able to meet with several aspiring designers when I gave a talk for the Detroit Garment Group at FashionSpeak in 2014. You could really feel the ambition and drive in the air. I felt inspired by everyone’s passion. Détroit is the New Black is one of my favorite stops in the city. Roslyn Karamoko is setting an amazing example for Detroit designers. She has a wonderful aesthetic and her store is beautiful.
BLAC: If you’re experiencing what so many of us are experiencing – having been in your career for decades now – what would you like to do that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had time to do?
Reese: I feel fortunate having a successful label for as long as I have. It’s definitely been a labor of love. I truly love designing clothes for real women and I hope to keep doing that well into the future.
BLAC: Talk about your design process. Are you a morning person or work into the wee hours of the night?
Reese: I’m an all-hours-of-the-day person! I like to start my morning with a great workout – I think it really sets the tone for the rest of the day and gives me a kick of energy. Depending on the time of the year, especially fashion week time, we work quite late, but I am striving to find balance.
BLAC: Where are the dresses made? Manufactured?
Reese: Our corporate office, which includes the sales showroom and design studio, is located in New York. We source textiles and trims in Europe and Asia. Most of our sportswear and dresses are manufactured in China, but hand beaded and embroidered pieces are made in India.
BLAC: When was the last time you were in Detroit, or your alma mater Cass Tech?
Reese: I was in Detroit in May to celebrate my sister Erin Reese Burks receiving the Woman of Excellence Award from the Michigan Chronicle and again in July to celebrate my grandmother’s 99th birthday. Every time I come home, something new has opened. Detroit’s cultural community has always been so strong, and the restaurant scene really seems to be ramping up! It’s awesome to see so many areas being revitalized.
More at tracyreese.com.