Tracy Reese: Fashion's First Lady

Getty Images
Getty Images

(The Root) — When I first met Tracy Reese, she was the signature designer for Magaschoni, turning that bridge label into a head turner by installing her feminine flourishes in all the right places. Fast-forward to today, Reese has a successful eponymous line that is about 15 years old, two diffusion lines, home textiles, shoes and … well, the big "and" this season is the giant nod that first lady Michelle Obama gave the designer when she wore a Tracy Reese frock to deliver her awe-inspiring speech at the Democratic National Convention.


Suddenly those who aren't in the know about the black female designer from Detroit are vying to find out.

Meanwhile, her presentation of Spring/Summer 2013 may just be her best collection yet. Keeping her feminine sensibility, Tracy combined vivid color with intricate beading, elegant cutouts, drapey jackets, cropped jeweled trousers and flowing sunny dresses, all mixed up together to make a palette that seems right for a confident woman who likes to look pretty.

I stole a moment with Tracy after her Spring/Summer 2013 show on Sunday at New York Fashion Week to gain some insight into what her design process is like now and what she thinks about having our royalty wearing her clothes.

Harriette Cole: What inspired this collection?

Tracy Reese: Juxtapositions of cultures, of textiles, of colors — organic and technical, tribal and romantic — and then I put these things together and make a strong, clear message that's versatile and works for a lot of different women.

HC: There were a lot of oversize pieces. Why?

TR: I just feel like you can take it away from the body but still be sexy. You can be comfortable and sexy, too. A lot of women will get with that.


HC: Michelle Obama wearing your dress at the DNC — what has that done for you?

TR: Oh, God, I think that it has exposed us to so many people who may not have known who we were now. It made our website light up. We've made thousands of new friends. People are purchasing and they want to know who we are, which is really exciting, and I'm super grateful. But for me personally it's just a personal high note because she made such an incredibly moving speech on such a wonderful night for all of us — all the women, all Americans, and people who grew up the way we grew up. It's not just about us; it's about all of us.


HC: You've been doing this for a long time. How do you get the inspiration for what's next, when there are so many things behind you?

TR: It usually starts with fabric. There's always something new that you want to express or find a way to express, so luckily there's always something out there. As Bill Cunningham says, "If you see beauty, we'll find it." And it's true.


Harriette Cole is the president of Harriette Cole Media and a contributing editor to The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

Harriette Cole is the author of the book of meditations 108 Stitches: Words We Live By and a contributing editor at The Root. Follow her on Twitter