Billy Reid, this year’s winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, isn’t your typical up-and-coming fashion talent. Based in Florence, Ala., the Amite, La., native has been in business since 1997, focusing predominantly on men’s wear including tailored separates, jeans, T-shirts, shoes and bags. His men’s wear aesthetic also informs his capsule women’s collection, which he launched in 1999 and has been quietly selling alongside his men’s looks.
The designer credited his mother, Tommy Jean Reid, for giving him his head start. “She had a women’s boutique when I was growing up called T.J.’s for Her,” he said. “It was in my grandmother’s old house, and I can only best describe it as ‘Steel Magnolias’ set in a clothing store. People gathered, and she had a terrific business. She steered me this way.”
While attending art school in Dallas, Reid worked at Saks Fifth Avenue, where he learned much about men’s clothing. He also worked at Reebok before launching his own line.
“In a lot of ways, it’s very personal,” he said of his approach. “I make things I want to wear. I am a traditionalist at heart. I am also a Southerner, and spend a lot of time between New York and Alabama. I like to make things that work well in the East Village or the woods of Alabama.”
As for winning the Fashion Fund, “Our focus is taking what we have and continuing to get it out there to grow it on a global basis. This is a huge opportunity.” On Tuesday, he wasn’t resting on his laurels. Reid was already busy making samples for the fall 2011 collection. “Work does not stop,” he said.
— Marc Karimzadeh
To New York fashion people, Prabal Gurung is already a household name after just two years. His collections have garnered him critical acclaim, and he has regular red-carpet endorsements from celebrities like Demi Moore, Leighton Meester, Zoe Saldana, Rachel Weisz and Thandie Newton. Gurung’s may seem like an overnight success story, but since arriving here from his native Nepal to study at Parsons The New School for Design, he has gotten a lot of experience under his belt. He interned at Donna Karan, then cut his teeth at Cynthia Rowley and Bill Blass before striking out on his own with what he calls a collection of “timeless, relevant, youthful sophistication and an intelligent luxury.”
Gurung described the moment he was named runner-up as a “gamut of emotions. I thought about the time I started to now,” he said. “Everyone has been so supportive.”
As for his $100,000 prize money, “It’s going straight back into the business. The money is going to be put into expansion of the brand and the offering.”
CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund runner-up Eddie Borgo plans to use his $100,000 prize money to hire additional staff and relocate his studio to a larger space downtown.
Borgo is originally from Atlanta, and after trying out art institutes in Virginia and Denver, he landed in New York at Hunter College. After graduation, he translated his love of sculpture to the jewelry sector.
“I love modern art, and I think that, in its sculptural quality, jewelry has a similar thread.… I realized that this was something I could do on my own, with my hands, and really learn the craft,” he said.
Borgo first gained recognition within the industry after he collaborated with Phillip Lim for his spring 2009 runway show. Soon afterward, Borgo put together a “mini-collection,” which he sold to Barneys New York. The Eddie Borgo aesthetic is instantly recognizable: well-crafted jewelry with a discernible punk-rock edge.
Borgo said of the award, “I’ve always felt very confident in our abilities to expand the brand. The difference is now, with this award, it puts so many resources at our fingertips. The monetary value and the mentorship is so fantastic, to have access to this committee of amazing fashion and business professionals.… I feel a sense of community, which is really special.”
— Lauren Benet Stephenson