Southern Style: Billy Reid
by Apryl Chapman Thomas

Some come to Florence, Ala., to delight in its southern charm.

Others visit for its rich music background.

Many come to explore its vast history.

Then there are those who visit for the fashion.

Yes, you read that right, fashion.

Located in the northwest part of the state, Florence (one-fourth of the cities that collectively make-up “The Shoals”) is not only home to such places like Pope’s Tavern MuseumW.C. Handy Birthplace, Museum & Library and the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House, but also home to internationally recognized clothing designers, one of them being Billy Reid.

Born and raised in Amite, La., Reid debuted his brand, William Reid, in 1998 but would go into hiatus in 2001. In 2004, he reappeared on the fashion scene with a new brand and model, Billy Reid.

Today, Reid has seven stories, six throughout the South and one in New York City. His collections and accessories are also found in such places as Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Nordstroms; and Instean and United Arrow, both in Japan.

When asked to describe his collections, he says, “it’s a modern and personal approach to classic American clothing.

“I spend most of my time between Florence, Ala., and New York City. It is those two worlds blending together that is at the heart of the collection.”

He adds they try to build it with as much integrity as possible and strive to make things that get better age and live with the customers.

“Our customers appreciate classic American clothing, and understand that clothes should have a purpose. We want the customer to feel that they are buying a ‘favorite piece’ that they can wear again and again.”

Even with numerous accolades that include being named by GQ and Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Best New Designer in America (2010) and recipient of Vogue and CFDA Fashion Fund Award (2010), and named CFDA’s Best Menswear Designer of the Year (2012), Reid has never abandoned his southern ties and roots. A visit to North Court Street in Florence and you’ll discover his flagship store and studio (he also has an office in Manhattan.)

“My wife is from Florence and we thought it was a great place to raise our family. We decided to build our headquarters here and structure our work around life, not life around our work.” he says. “We set up our headquarters on the main street of our town, and we work hard to be a vital part of our community and build with it.”

He adds, “our area has a rich music heritage — The Stones, Dylan, Aretha, Skynyrd and hundreds of other notables have recorded here. Recently, The Black Keys, Band of Horses and Alycia Keys cut records here. We enjoy being part of the music scene here and supporting young bands.”

“We also have a beautiful historic downtown with a little sandwich shop, Trowbridge’s, which hasn’t changed since 1918. Also, we are on the Tennessee River, so time spent on the water is a nice treat as well. We love it here, which is why we choose it is as home base.”

Outside of designing, Reid says he loves to spend time with my family in the outdoors; hunting, camping, and playing sports.

“Pontoon boats are also a lot of fun.”

His love for the outdoors has also expanded to his collection as well. Recently, he introduced a line of t-shirts ($56) and hats ($38) in which a portion of the sales benefits the Alabama Conservation and Natural Resources Foundation.

Sold online and at Reid’s stores, the t-shirts feature fishing boats, crabs and oysters complete with an Alabama Gulf Seafood logo.

“I am a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance,” says Reid. “They introduced us to the Alabama Gulf Seafood  in our community so we were happy to partner with them.”