As New York gears up to kick off Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Feb. 13, there’s no doubt that there are very few people of color walking the runways of the tents or showcasing their creations. However, designer Tracy Reese has remained a delightful presence each year and a powerhouse on the fashion scene, having turned her designs into clothing lines, footwear, accessories, and home decor.
She launched her namesake line in Spring 1998, and then another line, plenty by Tracy Reese, later that year. In 2007, she became a board member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), the trade association for more than 300 of America’s foremost fashion and accessory designers, and she has opened her own flagship store in New York City, a prime feat for most businesswomen in the fashion industry.
For Fashion Week, Reese will present a collection described as “eclectic,” inspired by the works of Vuillard, Van Gogh, and Modigliani. Black Enterprise got a chance to catch a break with her in the hustle and bustle of preparation to talk about how business acumen and pursuing your passion are vital for success.
Black Enterprise: What would you say are three keys to success that have been used in your life and for your business?
Tracy Reese: Never question what you know in your heart, and don’t be afraid to follow your passions. It is so important to have a career that you enjoy and are invested in. Also, my mother and grandmother instilled in me a sense of confidence and respect that I think has taken me a long way in my career.
What advice would you have for other business owners on how to take their business to the next level, particularly other designers of color?
Make sure that you are educated on both sides of the industry. At Parsons [School of Design], I was taught the skills needed to be a designer and to run a business. Without a balance of both, it is hard to be successful. I thought I knew everything, but I learned quickly that I really didn’t and knew I had to learn more about business.
How can business owners in the fashion industry find innovative ways to stay afloat in the current gloomy market?
Have passion and stay true to yourself and your design beliefs. Creating a line that reflects my own vision and continually yields looks that are timeless and wearable, yet fun and feminine has allowed me to be successful. Most importantly though is a rewarding job. Seeing that my designs make women feel beautiful about themselves motivates me to keep creating.