American fashion designer Tracy Reese is homeward-bound. The Detroit native and founder of eponymously named women’s ready-to-wear, accessories and home fashions brand Tracy Reese, recently introduced two exclusive sustainably made collections: “Hope for Flowers,” a 12-piece summer capsule for Anthropologie, available in-store and online, and a separate six-piece pilot collection for Detroit-based fashion retailer Détroit Is the New Black. The collections were produced in Flint and designed in Detroit, where Reese was born and raised.
In a continued partnership with Anthropologie, Reese’s “Hope for Flowers” collection — a name selected to convey a message of hope for our planet’s future and a reference to the “flower of creativity in each person that needs cultivating” — was inspired by the negative impacts of fast fashion and the designer’s desire to restructure her fashion business from top to bottom with a renewed focus on sustainability, ethical production and inclusive hiring, the brand explained. The capsule is designed using certified organic linen and cotton for dresses, tops and skirts, all free of harmful chemicals and dyes, which pairs nicely alongside the brand’s mission to provide arts education for youth through Reese’s collaboration with Détroit Is the New Black, which asserts that “creativity can flow, be nourished, and shared in Detroit,” the company said.
“I think one of the beautiful things about Detroit is that we are a manufacturing town already. It’s in our DNA,” Reese explained. “We know how to make things. We have the real estate, we have the workforce, the people love fashion. I think everybody loves fashion, but Detroiters have always loved fashion. We have an opportunity to build factories that are state-of-the-art and that are already sustainably planned. We can control our electricity use, we can recycle our water. There are so many things that we can do better.” Reese continued, “When we look at factories that have been around for decades in New York and other cities, they haven’t been able to invest in upgrading their facilities. They haven’t been able to invest in new technologies. They haven’t been able to invest in training because the industry has been moving away from domestic production. And I think what’s happening is people are becoming more and more interested in producing closer to where their customers are.”
Reese’s pilot collection for Detroit Is the New Black was initiated to help extend the brand’s values of community, craft and environmentalism to her hometown of Detroit, the company said, by creating a “pipeline of mentorship” that engages students from primary school to university. To achieve that end, Reese partnered with Detroit Public Schools Foundation; Wayne State University; the Industrial Sewing Innovation Center; St. Luke’s N.E.W. L.I.F.E Center in Flint, Mich., and the Detroit Institute of Arts and College for Creative Studies, to provide social and economic opportunities in Detroit, as part of the brand’s “community empowered ecosystem.”
For example, in partnership with DPS Foundation, Reese facilitated a print design workshop with students in third through fifth grades at the Duke Ellington School, which inspired prints for the pilot collection. Those designs were developed with the assistance of Cass Tech High School interns, who learned silk screening alongside Reese, using materials that have minimal environmental impact, the company said. Finally, the garments were designed in Reese’s Rivertown, Detroit studio, inclusive of draping and patternmaking, with the aid of fashion design students from Wayne State University. The exclusive launch of her pilot collection was timed with the store’s Woodward Avenue grand opening last month.
And that’s how each collection was designed with a mission to empower people, specifically women and youth, according to the brand. Reese told WWD, “Our products have always been ethically produced, but the production was missing these crucial, sustainable practices. I stepped back from the routine of what we do and examined, why are we doing it this way, and is what we’re doing still relevant in 2019? I had to examine my supply chain and do some serious soul-searching on who I am as a designer and what kind of legacy I’d like to leave behind.”
Reese also said she plans to “reduce her number of yearly collections offering new product timed to suit the needs of consumers rather than the typical industry cadence,” as part of her efforts to become more sustainably minded. Reese told WWD, “The growth of sustainability in the fashion industry has been too slow and much too slight, especially considering the way it takes advantage of the planet in the drive to produce product at lower and lower prices. I was working the same way for 30 years, designing 10 to 12 collections a year for two labels. You just get stuck in this system of cranking out product.”
And Reese is determined to stay on track with her renewed vision for a sustainably designed business, brand and product. “When I began my journey to designing more sustainably, I knew that it was critical to change my approach to design. Instead of the habit of decades of using all means at my disposal to manifest my vision, I would need to focus on textiles, cuts and embellishments that reduced waste and were more nurturing to the environment. I would also need to employ thoughtful design to elevate the contributions of the many craftspeople along the supply chain. This has been my journey of the past 18 months, and I feel reborn! After years of designing and producing volumes of product at a frenetic pace, reducing the scope of my work and honoring the practice, people and planet in all processes has breathed new life into my love of design and given greater purpose and agency to my enterprise.”
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