Every week we turn to the top retailers in men's fashion—from the owners of small independent stores to buyers at multinational chains—to find out what items have been selling like hotcakes and how they stock their shelves. This time, we talk to Billy Reid, the founder of his eponymous southern-inflected menswear line and the six gentlemanly stores that sell his CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund-winning designs.
What are your recent best sellers?
Unlined jackets in a variety of fabrics have been selling well, and we've been very pleased with our summer tailored clothing—cotton suits in particular. We've also sold through our K-Swiss limited-edition canvas sneaker. We're trying to make more by mid-September.
You have stores all over the South, two in Texas, and one here in New York City. Do you notice different shopping patterns and favorites between your customers in the Northeast and those down South?
Probably the biggest differences are fabric weights because of climate differences. And people in the South seem to be bigger, so we sell more smalls in New York and XLs in Charleston. New York is our best market for size small.
Do you stock those stores differently?
The offering is somewhat consistent in all of our shops but arranged differently in each because of layouts. In some cases we make 20 pieces of a particular style, and those might only make it to three to four shops. Each location has some tendencies—Nashville loves novel shirtings, Dallas sells full-cut shirts well, Charleston needs year round shorts and luggage. Having the shops really gives us insight into what our customer is responding to.
So you've learned a lot from your customers.
Yes, we're constantly learning. For instance, I had grown tired of plaid shirts, but then we saw that our customers are reacting well to them and requesting more. The customer is always right, so we make more plaid shirts.
Interesting. So your retail experience informs the production side. How do you balance those two aspects of the company?
I have been fortunate enough to see the business from many sides, but we have a team approach. When we started the business, there were four of us. We each had a strength—K.P. McNeill, business and finance background; Jake Szczepanski, store operations; Katy McNeill, sourcing; and I was to handle the collection and creative. It's worked well for us.
Tell me about those early days.
When our first store opened, which happened to be Houston, it was a proud and emotional time. We were working around the clock to decorate and get the shop set to open, then we would work the sales floor all day. Those are some very memorable times.
What's the last in-store item you took home for yourself?
The cotton-linen Memphis polo in three colors.