Alabama-based designer Billy Reid claims he has never sent a camo-print garment down the catwalk. Too obvious a Southern reference, he explained backstage before his menswear show. This season, however, that changed, perhaps because he infused his signature down-South style with a dose of California cool. "I thought about when I moved to Southern California in 1987, and how I started to add surfwear to the closet that I had brought from Louisiana," said Reid. "I wanted to mix the two worlds together."
The designer's Spring man was every kind of Cali boy—from the carefree stoner in a pair of selvedge tweed shorts and a bucket hat to the West Hollywood partygoer in a light, textured jacquard suit. Reid put his own spin on the laid-back West Coast look, pairing long, tunic-style tops, or drawstring linen lounge pants, with tailored dinner jackets or distressed bombers. But the collection wasn't without its Alabama moments. The robust palette, which included wines, deep blues, and neutrals, had a woodsy feel (the peachy tones were all SoCal, though), and then there was the live music. Reid enlisted Jon Batiste—who grew up only an hour away from the designer—and his band to play the show.
On the technical side, Reid stressed that fabric and print development was key—evident in his nubby linens, abundance of stripes and broken plaids, and featherweight cotton silk. Oh, and about that camouflage. It was actually an abstracted floral print rendered in yellows and olives. "I'm glad we did it. It became almost like a neutral for us," the designer said. The motif turned up on a pair of shorts as well as an oversized, hooded poncho, which—full disclosure—looked totally ridiculous while hanging limp on its hanger before the show. When it walked the runway, though, it came alive and felt playful, even fresh. That being said, you might need a dash of California swagger to pull it off.