Tracy Reese became instantly buzz-worthy last week when first lady Michelle Obama wore a custom-made dress by the designer to deliver her speech at the Democratic National Convention. The frock was so stunning that Reese had to rush the dress into mass production to meet consumer demand.
A similar reaction followed her Spring 2013 Fashion Week showing in New York City among the fashion industry insiders who flocked to the tents for more of Reese’s magic.
On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of New York’s best dressed, entertainers, plus the beauty and fashion business gentry witnessed Reese’s parade of signature, wearable separates. Yet vivid pattern mixing and the precise, flowing cuts of deceptively simple pieces set this collection apart.
“This is really one of Tracy’s best shows. Every season she really delivers on her brand, but this season there was such an exuberance,” Constance C.R. White, editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, told theGrio about the collection. “I loved the tribal mixes, the prints. Tracy has always had a great mastery of prints. I think that in this particular collection you really saw how strong she is. It was feminine, it was sexy. And I mean, what timing to have an incredible show just when the first lady has worn your dress to such applause. I am very happy for her.”
As though the first lady’s dazzling jacquard dress was a hint at more daring designs to come, many of Reese’s ensembles were tightly composed of hot pinks, browns, paisleys and yellows mixed and matched to perfection. The wildly-patterned trousers, shirts and dresses could have clashed, but instead blended soothingly into an uplifting symphony of color.
Actress Adepero Oduye, star of the hit independent movie Pariah, was one of the many front row luminaries who were deeply impressed.
“It made me smile,” Oduye told theGrio. “I loved the prints. I go very much by feeling, and it made me feel bright, and easy, and joyful.”
Complementing Reese’s use of prints, other looks were rendered in single head-to-toe pops of color — bright greens, turquoise, purple, orange. Neutrals included white and cream with accents of black. Monochromatic styles were enlivened through strategically placed slashes, side slits, deep V-necks, and draping exposing backs, arms and shoulders — perhaps a small nod to the fabulous biceps of Reese’s most famous client?
Pretty little dresses shared the runway with combinations giving off a tomboy-elegant air. Tough, motorcycle-inspired jackets in buttery leather or long shirts with angled zippers rendered in soft material were layered over slouchy bottoms. Transluscent and lacy, tailored shirts worn under blazers were both girly and masculine. An extension of this aesthetic, Reese’s most memorable accessory was an update of the ubiquitous nerd glasses. Her take transformed the traditionally boxy frame into an ovoid shape reminiscent of the popular ’80s Cazals made famous by Run-DMC.
Other fun accents included chunky, geometric bracelets, funky fringed tote bags, and simple, spunky high heeled sandals in saturated hues.
“I played with the juxtaposition of organic and technical, soft and structured and sporty and feminine for an unexpected and refreshing collection,” Reese said in a statement released to theGrio. “A quilted silk jacket in pert layered over a black burnout gauze shirt and a mentholescence stretch linen trouser, and paired with fringed sandal and clutch, creates an effortless look that is sophisticated yet relaxed.”
Tracy Reese’s Spring 2013 collection was full of breezy, eye-catching gear perfect for a warmer-weather vacation or a stylish jaunt about town, but there is so much more meaning contained in these clothes than just their boldly chic sensibility. Reese’s Spring 2013 show is itself an amalgam of the power and beauty of the American Dream realized through style.
This show, held on the heels of Michelle Obama’s arresting appearance in Reese’s dress at the Democratic National Convention, draws clear parallels between Reese and the first lady herself — two self-made African-American women at the very top of their game, leading in their respective fields, rarities. Women who likely seemed unlikely to win, yet are now leading with winning grace.
Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.