Fashion Designer Tracy Reese is taking on fast fashion with “Hope For Flowers,” her Detroit-based, sustainable clothing brand.

Reese has a decorated career in fashion; her collections appear all around the world: in specialty stores like Saks Fifth, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Anthroplogie. Her pieces have been worn by notable figures from Regina King and Tracee Ellis Ross to Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama.

A Detroit native, Reese’s career started in New York when studying at Parsons School of Design. After graduation, she got her earliest exposure to the industry by working under French Designer Martine Sitbon of the firm Arlequin.

After three years with Sitbon, she started her own business at the suggestion of her father, who also helped her finance the new operation. Reese’s designs quickly found their way on the shelves of major retailers, but it wasn’t all that she thought it would be.

“I wasn’t making a penny,” she jokes. “I was 24 years old, I didn’t have the foundation or experience to really make a success of it.”

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A sudden downturn in the economy tipped the fragile balance, and she had to close the brand. Her friendship with Marc Jacobs landed her a position at Perry Ellis, and later at Tom Ford. After gaining experience working with several brands, she relaunched her Tracy Reese brand in New York City a few years later.

Reese’s collections were sought out for their bright colors and retro-influenced designs. She soon found business partners to help her grow the line globally, and she continued to develop the company until around 2017 when a change began to happen for her, and the industry as a whole.

In the 10 years that the company expanded, the business model for many brands has shifted to a fast fashion model — continuously churning out new, cheap clothes. Although this trend created new looks faster, the clothes often don’t last long, and it creates more pollution from hazardous chemicals and waste used in production. Reese’s partners wanted to follow the industry into the fast fashion race; however, she had growing concerns over the environmental footprint of fast fashion.

She split from her partners and launched Hope for Flowers in Detroit to create clothes that were fashionable and environmentally sound.

“There’s a shortlist of fabrics that are eco-friendly, we really had to change everything,” Reese recounts.

With Hope For Flowers, Reese embraced natural fibers like cotton and linen and collaborated with local artists for safer printing and dyeing techniques. 

Now in their fourth season, the brand has found its place in department stores and specialty stores like Tooties, Hudson Bay, and Saks Fifth. Recently, they did a capsule for Bloomingdales around the hit show “Bridgerton” and are currently working on a collaboration with Naturalizer on a line of sustainably made shoes.

This month Reese will be speaking with the United Nations about sustainability in clothing.

“The idea is to keep the community up to date and educated on all kinds of sustainable life practices, whether it’s mending clothes, or finding new uses for things you’ve stopped using,” Reese says.

It’s important for Reese that these ideas of eco-friendly living are made available for everyone. Hope for Flowers hosts community workshops, and art enrichment classes for kids and adults for these such as weaving, upcycling, and journal making.

“We keep thinking we have to get new things, and that’s not true. We need to buy better quality, and we need to take care of the things we have. We can’t buy into this throwaway culture,” she says.

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