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Billy Reid: The Menswear Man

Saks Fifth Avenue welcomes the designer into the fold. Again.

Menswear is on a bit of an upswing of late. And don’t take it from us (or the men’s fashion mags, for that matter): look no further than the inveterate success of one Billy Reid. Since his surprise win of the 2010 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award (beating boldfacers Joseph Altuzarra, Eddie Borgo and Prabal Gurung, no less), Reid has become one of menswear’s leading lights, all from his home base in tiny Florence, Alabama. Now, as his collection finally arrives at Saks Fifth Avenue, he’s coming back to where it all began.

Saks New York welcomed Reid on Wednesday night as he launched his Spring/Summer 2014 collection accompanied by a Q&A with Esquire Fashion Director Nick Sullivan. Beforehand, the designer chatted with us about the menswear resurgence and what Saks has meant to his career (spoiler: it’s meant a lot).

Menswear seems to matter more than ever right now. Do you agree?
Reid: Totally. There’s been really passionate editorial support throughout menswear recently. In the last five years or so, people are really getting out the information online. All of us in menswear have benefited.

And what does that exposure do?
Reid: Really, it ushers the customer along. The younger generation cares and stays on top of it—they know the brands, they know the designers, and they care about quality. They follow that stuff. People pay attention and thank goodness men pay attention to it now.

Saks Fifth Avenue is kind of where it all began for you, isn’t it?
Reid: I started my career here. I was going to school in Dallas and I got a job at Saks. They put me in men’s suits because I knew a little bit about it. I worked with these guys in their 50s and 60s—veteran menswear, made-to-measure guys.

Sounds like a good education.
Reid: Working at Saks was unbelievable. At that time, Ralph Lauren was starting to get big. Tommy Hilfiger had just started. Armani…Versace…I got to see all of them working at Saks, studying those collections and working with those companies. I learned from some really great people working there. I had no plan going in, but those years at Saks really laid the foundation for a lot of things.

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