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Billy Reid Tiptoes Into Women’s

Having carved out his name as a niche retailer with a down-home chic sensibility, Billy Reid is venturing into the women’s shoe market — albeit gingerly.

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Having carved out his name as a niche retailer with a down-home chic sensibility, Billy Reid is venturing into the women’s shoe market — albeit gingerly. “We talked to a lot of women who liked our men’s boots and decided to keep it really tight,” said Reid of his holiday 2009 women’s boot collection, which consists of three styles drawn from Reid’s successful men’s line, which launched in 2004. Evoking an equestrian look, the boots — each done in cordovan leather and offered in two colors — veer from straightforward (a flat riding boot with antique brass zippers and snaps) to sophisticated (a platform boot with a four-inch heel and a raw-edged bootie with leather pleating).

Reid noted that in designing the boots, which are produced in Italy, he polled longtime customers and offered prelaunch orders, a way of hedging his bets against the fickle retail climate. “It was a gradual process, which helped us feel more confident about going into this category,” Reid said. The collection will expand for spring, yet still hew closely to the men’s shoe aesthetic. (He added washed leather will play a big role.) As for the rest of Reid’s business, which includes seven freestanding stores plus an e-commerce site, the designer said the economic downturn had made him “smarter about [my] business.” Suiting, shirts and outerwear continue to sell well, so Reid is focusing on those markets as well as accessories. His women’s line will wholesale between $225 and $375, and will be sold in his stores, though Reid is in negotiations with retail partners as well.

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