View Slideshow

NEW YORK — Having grown up in hand-me-downs, Reba McEntire now has a whole collection to call her own.

The country music singer and TV star has teamed up with Dillard’s — her favorite place to shop when she’s home in Nashville — to develop a signature collection. Unlike many hip-hop musicians-turned-designers, McEntire said this isn’t second nature to her. In fact, she learned about fashion the hard way.

“I wore a lot of hand-me-downs and that’s a tough education. But I learned how to look at catalogues and magazines and copy what other people were wearing,” she told WWD. “There were a lot of things I didn’t like and some things I did. To do this clothing line is an adventure. At first, I didn’t know if I would be able to do it.”

Beginning in March, Dillard’s will house the Reba collection, which is being produced by New York-based Icon Creations, in 147 of its 329 stores. McEntire described her own style as “comfortable and classy with confidence.” Each month, 30 to 50 styles will be shipped to stores, and the chain plans to add additional doors and categories as needed. Pants are a personal favorite, but McEntire also offers skirts with each group.

McEntire is far from self-promoting about her design expertise. “I am absolutely not an expert designer in any shape or form. I learned through the school of hard knocks,” she said. “I like to wear what feels good. If I feel good in what I’m wearing, I have more confidence for whatever I’m doing — whether I’m going on stage, or going into a meeting or out with my family.”

This is new terrain for the 49-year-old recording star. Ditto for the Little Rock, Ark.-based chain, which does not carry any celebrity clothing lines.

As the best-selling female country singer, with more than 48 million records sold, McEntire’s wide-ranging appeal was a plus with Dillard’s and something it hopes will translate into stellar sales. She has also established a name for herself through her sitcom “Reba,” her Broadway appearance in “Annie Get Your Gun,” plus numerous films and books.

This story first appeared in the October 4, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In the end, designing apparel wasn’t much different than writing one of her songs. “It’s very much the same. It has to touch my heart. If it doesn’t touch my heart, how can I convince someone else to wear these clothes?”

Her take on apparel includes sportswear, knitwear, careerwear and novelty pieces. With retail prices ranging from $48 to $289, the Reba line is being pitched as “affordable luxury that should appeal to a broad range of customers as diverse as her professional personality,” said James Stockman, vice president and general merchandise manager at Dillard’s.

“Reba kept coming back to [the fact that] she didn’t need to do this,” he said. “Reba wanted customers to fall in love with her clothes again, so there are all these details, workmanship and fabrics. A name is added value but I think there’s so much added value in each garment.”

But there’s no question the name will help sell the goods, and Dillard’s is planning to feature the raven-haired performer in a major print advertising campaign next spring. The company declined to say how much it was spending or expects to generate in first-year sales.

For her part, McEntire hopes her fans who shop at Dillard’s will see her in a new light. “I just hope this is something that when people walk into Dillard’s they say, ‘Wow! Reba has helped me out — not only do I feel better when I listen to her songs, but she makes me feel better when I wear her clothes, too.’”

— Rosemary Feitelberg