Designer Tracy Reese has cut a well-tailored niche in the world of fashion. Renowned for her ready-to-wear line of form-flattering dresses and bold, punchy patterns, the native Detroiter has taken the national and international retail markets with great success since her 1998 debut-showing regularly at Paris and New York fashion weeks, opening a store in Tokyo and dressing high-profile women such as First Lady Michelle Obama.
Last month, during a visit to keynote the FashionSpeak 2014 event for aspiring designers, Reese spoke with BLAC about commercial success, asking for directions in her hometown ("Oh, please") and Motor City style.
You've been a well-known designer for some time now. Do you still get giddy seeing someone wearing your clothes?
It's one of my most favorite parts of my job-seeing real people wearing the clothes, adding their own flavor to them.
Ever want tell people they're wearing it all wrong?
Nope. Never. (Smiles) I am an observer.
Your list of celebrity clients includes Angela Bassett and First Lady Michelle Obama. Who is your favorite to style?
I would say "to dress," because I think they each style things their own way. Obviously, Mrs. Obama is my No. 1. I'm so proud to know that she wears our clothes. Um, we've been dressing Sarah Jessica Parker a lot lately. And she's really fun to dress and she loves the product.
You travel around the world. What are some of the things you've heard about Detroit?
I think the outside impression of Detroit is tragic. And I am always the one saying Detroit is an amazing city. And don't believe the hype. Every city has good points and bad points. I was born and raised here. I went to school here. And I am a proud Detroiter.
Even when I first went to New York, when I went to Parsons (The New School for Design), New Yorkers would say to me: "Oh, you're from Detroit? Like, oh my God."
I'd be like, "But you live here"-12 times crazier, especially when I first went to New York. It was 12 times more insane than Detroit ever will be. So it's interesting the impression that people have. But you know we are working hard to change that.
Is Detroit's style is form over function? Or more function?
Form over function, for sure. I think people in Detroit just appreciate clothes and love to dress and love to dress up. And I think if it was just about function … you know, it's interesting. It changes by industry. But my impression of most Detroiters is that they are really into fashion.
Ever think about doing a Detroit-inspired line?
Not really. You know, we've taken inspiration from different world cultures, especially for our Plenty collection, which is younger and more bohemian. But I haven't really dedicated a collection to a city.
If Detroit were an item of clothing, what would it be?
A leather jacket … I can add hardware and details to it. It's tough and resilient.