Florence, Alabama, is a small Southern town known as the home of W.C. Handy, Division II football powerhouse University of North Alabama and two famous and successful fashion designers. Natalie Chanin is one of those designers (see yesterday’s post for a look at her newest collection) and the other is — have you guessed it yet? — Billy Reid. Billy was born in Louisiana and grew up in Texas (Florence is his wife’s hometown), and his men’s and women’s clothes are evocative of a gently elegant and quietly genteel Southern way of life. He has stores in New York, Dallas and other cities, but the flagship store is in downtown Florence. It’s in a gorgeous 1833 house called Pickett Place that glows with family antiques and photographs — well worth the trip to Florence just to wander around and admire. Like his friend Natalie, Billy always is friendly and gracious — they both have that Southern way of making you feel they’ve waited all day just for the chance to talk to you. They each see their work not only as businesses but as connections for reaching out and reminding others of the art and food and history and craft that’s around every street corner and county road in Alabama — and your hometown, too. Check out Billy’s Web site at http://www.billyreid.com.
And if you’re like me and have to enjoy New York’s Fashion Week vicariously, check out these Web sites: Vogue’s http://www.style.com/ for photos and complete coverage of each show (don’t forget The Sartorialist for photos of off-the-runway fashion); http://www.nytimes.com/pages/fashion/index.html for intelligent discussion and background; and http://gofugyourself.celebuzz.com/ for the Fugly Girls’ signature and hilarious snarkiness. But we laugh because it’s true.