New York Fashion Week: Tracy Reese offers chunky knits, sexy menswear, and signature dresses for Fall 2014

theGRIO SLIDESHOW - Reese's show for Fall 2014 included many pretty dresses, which she is known for...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

It’s not every show at New York Fashion Week that attracts British royalty, but for her Fall/Winter collection for 2014, designer Tracy Reese was able to boast that feat.

In addition to the metaphorical forms of fashion royalty that her shows inevitably attract — such as stylist June Ambrose and NYFW creator Fern Mallis — Reese’s audience also included the world’s first black marchioness, Emma McQuiston. McQuiston, the daughter of a Nigerian oil tycoon and British socialite, married into the British aristocracy in June 2013.

“I love Tracy Reese because she has dressed Michelle Obama, famously, and she looks beautiful in her clothes, very classy, very elegant,” McQuiston told theGrio backstage before the show. “Then when I saw her show in September [of 2013], I noticed there was such versatility in her collection. You can wear her out to a fun, casual summer lunch, you can wear her out to a formal function. I love the fact that women of all ages and all styles can wear her clothes.”

McQuiston fit right in with the who’s who of New York City’s arts and culture glitterati as a crowd that included actress Condola Rashad and Dianna Ross’ daughter Rhonda Ross gathered on a recent Sunday afternoon to enjoy the latest from Reese’s creative mind.

Reese brings fall colors, modern interpretations

Star of the latest Bravo reality television hit Blood, Sweat and Heels and fashion maven Daisy Lewellyn was on hand to cover the show. While she was acting in a professional capacity, catching Reese’s collection is always a personal favorite.

“Tracy Reese has always been one of my top three shows,” Lewellyn told theGrio. “For one, because the spirit of the collection is always based on femininity, whether it’s for fall or spring.”

Reese’s show for Fall 2014 included many pretty dresses, which she is known for. Some of her departures this season included many monochromatic looks in maroons and grays, the extensive use of pants (when dresses are often her focus), and many black and white prints (as opposed to an array of colors).

The overall effect was very calming, cozy and soothing, perfect for staying warm and chic during a fall or winter jaunt about town, or to the country.

Collection takes new, great strides

“Transporting. Beautiful. I love the direction,” Constance White, former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine and a former New York Times fashion writer, told theGrio. “It showed a new direction that Tracy started about two seasons ago, and she’s really made it her own this season.” White added about the show, which was chock full of chunky coats and layering pieces, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of the best of the week.”

White noted Reese’s use of menswear rendered feminine with her signature flourish, making boxy jackets with cinched waists look cool and sexy. There was also Reese’s noted use of sportiness as a theme, exemplified in the slouchy silhouettes of many looks. The casual feeling of these ensembles were accentuated with large hobos and little leather purses slung over models’ shoulders.

While these aspects are typical of American fashion, White said Reese couched them within her presentation with international touches. One could see the European influences in the many slim pants suits and head-to-toe black looks. Perhaps for balance, a few long dresses in delicate fabrics that swayed with movement complemented the more structured pieces. “I loved it,” White said.

Reese comments on diversity in fashion

Reese’s audience was buzzing with excitement as the show ended, gabbing in groups and taking pictures in the large loft space where the show was held outside of the main Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents at Lincoln Center. Gathered in the west-20s area of Manhattan known for housing galleries, guests were so amped up they didn’t want to leave.

Tracy Reese, with her large, successful business and distribution in major stores, is a very rare African-American designer to hold such an esteemed place — with the commensurate power — within the fashion establishment. She recently spoke to the Associated Press about the need for the style industry to become more diverse.

“There’s so many things that need to change. There are a lot of designers of color but I think there’s just a dearth of designers out front,” Reese told AP. “Some of that is finance. But I think by saying that diversity is beautiful, that is a beginning, to look at all people and to see the beauty in each of us and their value is a very strong beginning. It’s important to keep the conversation going, then people will start to broaden their vision.”

Reese added about other elements of her business, “There are so many amazing jobs in the fashion industry as a whole. It’s not all about design. We need great PR people of color, for one. That’s a very non-diverse group. It’s all facets of the industry that have to be addressed.”

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter @lexisb