There must be something in the water in Florence, Alabama. For decades, the Shoals region has attracted some of the best artists, musicians and chefs in the world – despite being an hour drive from the closest interstate. It’s also home to Billy Reid, one of the top fashion designers in the world. He’s been named GQ’s designer of the year his clothes have been worn by everyone from James Bond to the Avengers. Oh. And each year he also throws one of the South’s swankiest parties.
On the second episode of The Reckon Interview we chat with Billy Reid about how his Southern roots influence his timeless style. We also touch on how he sells the South to the rest of the world.
Here are a few interesting moments from the episode to get you started.
Billy Reid on the origins of The Shindig
We did not anticipate it growing into what it is now. That is for sure. We didn’t have a plan. It was an idea to bring people [into Alabama]. I’m a huge music lover. I knew a little bit about the Muscle Shoals history, you know, when I married my wife and I first came here, but once I moved here and I really started to learn more about it and research more. It was just a situation where I was going, man, people need to know about this. At the time the movie wasn’t out or any of that. So I said we’ve got to bring people down here. Let’s bring them down here, let’s take them over to the studios and you know, have them in there. Let’s play the records and then talk about the history of the music. And you’re sort of like creating the movie through a presentation and experience. And then, you know, we cooked for them in the first one. We cooked in my house. I mean, so the first one, literally were cooking, you know, shrimp and grits for, you know, a bunch of New Yorkers and we take them out on the lake and we show them the collection obviously. You know, there was a fashion part of it and kind of, you know, inform them of what we’re doing. And that was the first one. And what happened was the people that came down just they were such a great mouthpiece. And so he said, hey, we should do that again. That was great. So the next year comes around and we did another one. We kind of added, you know, new things to it. And before you know it, it was a situation where, hey, we can’t do this at our house anymore.
I’ve seen hearts and minds change by people coming in from the outside and blending with people that are local here that you may not ever have a chance to like meet up on the street anywhere else, but in this situation and you watch them come together, break bread together, you know, have had drinks and hang out and listen to music and you know, before you know it, spiritually people are changed somewhat by it.
On James Bond wearing one of his jackets
We had a phone call that came in to customer service and it was from a stylist from a movie and they said it was for James Bond, the movie. We, we didn’t really understand what all that entailed at the time and she goes, “we have the actor here, his name is Daniel Craig and he has two of your jackets. He bought two of them in your store and he wears them all the time and we’re filming the movie and he wants to wear these jackets in the movie.” They said, “but we need 19 size mediums and we need 11 size large. Do you have them?”
And we’re like, uh, doubt it. I think, I think we made 40 total the first time. We’re not making like big units here and so we scrambled and said you know, this could be important. So we were able to track down the fabric. We got in touch with the manufacturer and, anyway, we’re able to make these jackets. It took several, took a couple of months, but we did it and got it to him. We didn’t know if it was what was going to happen. And then low and behold, the movie comes out. It was like he’s in the movie in this coat and it’s, he’s in the coat for a long time. And we had called the coat, the bond peacoat. Not for James Bond, but because our store in New York was on Bond Street. So, that’s how it got its name, oddly enough.
For more on how Billy Reid’s Southern roots shaped his company, listen to the full episode here.