With the drop of our Spring ‘21 Collection, we wanted to kick off our new interview series with the man himself: Billy Reid, our namesake founder and designer. We caught up with Billy on a cold, but sunny, Thursday morning at his Florence, Alabama, design studio. We talked about the story of the season, the process behind turning a mood board into a collection (it takes more than a year), and how he keeps his energy flowing.
We started with Spring’s main reference: The time Billy spent in Los Angeles during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when he was just starting out. That, in turn, was inspired by a recent visit to the City of Angels. “That jogged memories of how my personal style evolved while I was living there for four years,” he says, “having moved from a job with Saks Fifth Avenue, where I wore suits every day, to living in a beach house with three friends, driving a motorcycle and working for Reebok. The trip down memory lane referenced the limited pieces I had in the closet moving from the South and how things evolved.”

In the Studio with Billy Reid: Left, scenic image from California; Right, close-up of Billy adding details to the design boards in his studio

From there, he worked with the design team on creating a mood board that captured the spirit of that time. “Inspiration comes from so many sources,” he says. “I reference art books and photography books, I look at shapes in nature and on the street and reinvent them into textures and patterns. I love to travel and people watch and research subjects online. I also reference our past work and the sample archive to reinterpret favorite pieces or prototypes that were unfinished.

In the studio with Billy Reid | Left image: fabric swatches; right image: Billy in the sample closet at his studio in Florence, Alabama.
In the studio with Billy Reid | Picture of painted surfboard and bolt of fabric leaning in the corner of Billy's studio in Florence, Alabama

“I usually will begin a conversation with the team about what’s on my mind, which could be a place, a vibe, an activity or art, really just a general feeling of what garments could be good for the season,” he adds. “From initial concept boards to a collection in our shops is a twelve- to fourteen-month process. Yep, lead times are no one’s friend.”

In the studio with Billy Reid | detail shot of the design inspiration boards for SS21

Adding to the challenge was attempting to recreate the magic of the studio over Zoom.“I believe that that energy is hard to replace,” Billy says. “However, we have been able to work from home with efficiency and effectiveness during the pandemic.”
One thing hasn’t changed, however: Billy’s process, and the beautiful results that stem from it. “I like to start with sketching out silhouettes as a baseline for the season,” he says. “The process has evolved over the years, and we have a great team where the work is more collaborative. What doesn’t change is you need an idea, you have to bring it to life, and follow it through so every detail in the garments is thought through to make it the best it can be.” With this Collection, Billy and the team have done exactly that.
In the studio with Billy Reid | Left image: Billy fitting a coat on a model for the SS21 collection; Right: photo of Billy's sketchbook on a leather ottoman in his studio in Florence, Alabama.
Before we left Billy, we asked him a key part of our In the Studio series: Our five signature lightning round questions. Here’s what he said.

The Lightning Round - 5 Rapid Fire Questions and Answers

1. What are you reading or listening to at the moment?
BBC World News and NPR. I seem more interested in world affairs right now. I’m a news junkie, and I’ve cut myself off from watching cable news, so radio for now.
2. What is a principle you try to live by?
Treat others with respect and be kind.
3. What is one hidden talent you possess, and one hidden weakness you overcome?
Coaching Baseball, something I truly love. I have too many weaknesses that need overcoming, but being overly passionate.
4. How do you keep your inspiration / imagination fueled?
I don’t really think about it. It’s always been a constant. I try to stay curious and just let imagination run.
5. Do you have a daily practice or ritual?
I like to try to break up the monotony. I don’t sleep much and usually get up early and deal with ongoing and daily work needs. But, I also try to break things up during the day with a few moments of house or yard projects, work on baseball or basketball with my son, spend some family time. I feel the balance really keeps things fresh.
Image of Billy Reid walking into his Florence, AL studio carrying a guitar.