For Fall, Billy Reid made the leap to the catwalk after five seasons of presentations. Stylish and idiosyncratic they may have been, but Reid had come round to thinking that the way he'd been showing had given his designs a slightly misleading down-home, bourbon-and-barbecue flavor. There was actually a lot of hand-tailored finery getting lost in the mix. Reid decided that runway was the remedy. "I wanted the focus this season to be squarely on the clothes," he said. "It's all about luxe. No denim, no chinos." And when the Deep South did put in an appearance, it was in the exalted form of dress shoes handmade from Louisiana alligator.
Reid's appreciation of the finer things in life was sharpened by a recent trip with his wife to Paris and London, an archetypal Old World experience that took on all the romantic trappings of a second honeymoon. So there was a lot of love in his new collection, as well as some ingenious souvenirs like the jacket lining that mimicked the crumbling wallpaper in the church of Saint-Eustache in Paris (that's one way to turn a trip into a tax write-off). The womenswear played out like the fantasy of an innocent American abroad: lean, long, pencil-skirted, wide-brim-hatted, sophisticated sorts with whom a young man might have an adventure. The luxe was utterly straightforward in a floor-length suede outfit, the model sporting a mysteriously enormous saddle bag.
The menswear, on the other hand, had a kind of college boy formality—if Reid's women were greyhounds, his men were pups. A gray flannel suit was accompanied by a washed leather backpack. An immaculately realized shawl-collared tux in wool faille was worn with a washed oxford button-down and kilties. Reid artfully layered tailored twill over leather jackets. So the formality was actually depth-charged. But the luxury lingered in the plush fabrics or the shaved nutria collar on a tweed coat, which felt like mink. The dinner jacket in a natural cashmere hopsack that closed the show could be one of the season's most elegantly modern evening options.