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Designer of the Year: Tracy Reese

Find out what inspires New York-based designer Tracy Reese to create beautiful clothes.

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Parsons School of Design alum Tracy Reese is a sophisticated designer with the intelligence to understand what the Tracy Reese woman wants to wear. When I need an amazing dress for a cocktail event or a special occasion, I rely on Reese to deliver a frock that is pretty, feminine and chic.

ESSENCE.com caught up with the busy design mogul to chat about what an average day in the design studio is like for her, the must-have fashions of next year and being selected as our Designer of the Year.

ESSENCE.COM: How would you describe the evolution of Tracy Reese within the last five years?

TRACY REESE: From a young age I knew I wanted to create beautiful things. I was influenced by the femininity of women like my grandmother. From my early days of designing, and still today, I love to create pieces that are vibrant and elegant, paying close attention to detail. For me, it’s all about solving problems. I want women to feel great in what they wear, and as woman designer, I am constantly inspired to come up with new ways to design clothing that can help to enhance women’s confidence.

Over the past few years, TR designs has flourished. TR now includes apparel and footwear.  We added a home collection under the plenty brand umbrella and launched a third collection to the lineup—frock!, in spring 2006 comprised of fun and flirty occasion dresses that easily transition from day to evening. In my spring 2009 show, we launched Tracy Reese Black Label, an evening collection comprised of our key silhouettes—all dolled up. Black Label was something I’ve been wanting to do for some time and I am thrilled with how it turned out.


ESSENCE.COM: Describe your average day in the design studio? What time do you start your day? Who are the top players in your team? Are you a workaholic?

REESE: Each day is different. We are constantly in the midst of several fittings to ensure the proper structuring and tailoring of each and every garment for the Tracy Reese, Black Label, plenty and frock! collections. I spend my day between various fittings, design meetings, business meetings, etc and of course, designing! I always have music playing while I am working. It helps inspire me and keeps me calm.

ESSENCE.COM: You submitted a design for future First Lady Michelle Obama’s inaugural gown. Describe the creative process you took to capture her first-class style? What types of fabrics and shapes do you feel work best for Mrs. Obama and why?

REESE: Mrs. Obama is striking and looks great in bold colors. I envisioned her in something modern, chic, feminine and structured yet comfortable so she can enjoy this momentous occasion.

ESSENCE.COM: Who ruled the red carpet for you style-wise in 2008?

REESE: For red-carpet style, Beyoncé always looks gorgeous and put together. She takes risks yet always chooses silhouettes that highlight her fabulous figure and rich colors that look great and pop against her skin tone.

ESSENCE.COM: Name one brand of jeans, shoes, handbags and clothing you can’t live without?

REESE: I love my Mulberry handbag. It’s made with saddle leather so that the wear and tear from using it results in a bag that has even more character than when I first bought it!  In the summer, I love Birkenstocks and don’t think I could live without them! I have five pairs. They are just so comfortable.



ESSENCE.COM: I spotted your mother backstage at your spring 2009 with Brandy beaming like a proud mother should. What encouraging role has your mother played in your career? Who else in your family has creative flair for the fabulous?

REESE: My mother constantly shows her support and love which helps me so much. My entire family has been supportive of my designing. From early on, my grandmother was extremely influential—she taught me to sew and was my first fashion icon. She was so elegant and ladylike, and I try to emulate her personality and style a little in each piece of clothing that I design.


ESSENCE.COM: What will be the fashion must-haves next year?

REESE: I think color is making a comeback as are new, interesting silhouettes like harem pants and lantern skirts. For February we are still confirming plans, but I am cooking up a new and interesting take on presenting fashion as art.

ESSENCE.COM: How does it feel to be selected as ESSENCE.com’s Designer of the Year? And what can we expect from you in 2009?

REESE: It is a great honor to be selected Designer of the Year and to have the support of the ESSENCE editors and readers. For 2009, I am really excited about the launch of Tracy Reese Black Label which will hit stores in late March.  It is a capsule collection featuring elegant evening wear with intricate detailing, crystal beading, rich colors and luxurious fabrics.