tracy reese, Black designers, creatives, design, sustainability, Detroit

Detroit-based designer Tracy Reese is continuing her journey into sustainability with her latest Hope for Flowers collection.

The sustainable clothing brand’s 10-piece collection titled “Into Fall” features a tight edit of skirts, shirts and slipdresses in bold prints with a self-described “autumn feeling” the designer admits is intentionally pared-down. The collection ranges from $188 for a blouse to $325 for a dress.

For Reese, the lesson in creating the collection is that fashion can’t fall back on what it has always done.

“In our industry, we’re so focused on the future, the destination a lot. We’re not so focused on the journey,” she said. “The journey to working more responsibly and creating more sustainable product, it’s not an overnight arrival. You have to relearn everything that you’re doing.”

All pieces in the collection are 100 percent Tencel Lyocell, a lower-impact fiber many denim players have embraced. While production largely takes place in China, Reese has been forging partnerships locally since March and is still “growing into that [Made in Detroit] capability.”

“I’m most excited to explore small communities of craftspeople and have that one-on-one experience,” she said. “In the meantime, I’m exploring some communities right here in Detroit. There are some really interesting immigrant communities that have craft that have been passed down from their own families.”

Engaging new communities will also help with the value-added aspect of the brand, the storytelling consumers increasingly crave. 

“Going forward, I really want to be able to offer a few more unique pieces. Pieces that are made in Detroit and hand-embellished, too,” Reese said. “I had to think in a somewhat conservative way — thinking what to offer, what customers would like and what I felt was appropriate. It was the first time I had to edit myself so intensely.”

Although she empathizes with caution in spending amid the pandemic and with the upcoming election, she said her customers continued to purchase summer merchandise all the way through September and October. “It wasn’t like it became obsolete,” she reiterated, speaking of the waning seasonality of clothes.

“Everything is moving at a slower pace than I originally planned, but we’re still moving forward — that’s been a lifeline,” she added.

Tracy Reese Launches Collections, Discusses Path to Sustainability

Hope for Flowers is working on its facility and programming following the web site launch in June. The focus will be to create free arts education for youth on the weekends and workshops for adults during the week, according to Reese. Although progress has felt slower in recent months given the pandemic, she maintains it’s all part of her “master plan” that harbors inclusivity, self-sufficiency and community.

“A lot of times sustainability feels very elitist and not accessible to everyone, and I want to debunk that and offer simple tools for people,” she added. “Embedded in all of that is having simple conversations on sustainability and living sustainably and using our power as consumers to purchase from brands that are concerned for the welfare of our planet and all of the people along the supply chain.”

This fall, Reese will partner with nonprofit Nest in its Makers United program, which is coming to Detroit this fall. The initiative, already in Austin and San Antonio, Tex., harbors craftsmanship and economic independence by linking crafting communities with resources.

This year, she will also partner with Pottery Barn in a collaboration, though details are still under wraps.

“Style is alive and well,” Reese emphasized, offering some optimism for the future of clothing consumption. Recounting a shopping trip to a consignment boutique, Reese said, “I was trying on stuff and playing around with old prom dresses. Fun, eccentric stuff — and I was so happy. I haven’t felt like that in months in terms of fashion. I know my customers are going to feel the same way coming out of this once they have a chance and reason — and maybe not even a reason.”