Tracy Reese: female fashion pioneer

Tracy Reese is an African American designer who has had an incomparable influence on contemporary female fashion. Educated at the prestigious Parsons School of Design,  graduating in 1984, she soon began working for French fashion designer Martine Sitbon at the small firm, Arlequin. Reese went on to work in multiple notable fashion houses, including Perry Ellis, where she became fashion director for their women’s portfolio. 

In 1997, Reese launched her eponymous fashion line, which was largely successful. She would go on to release ‘Plenty by Tracy Reese’ in 1998, and ‘DRESSES’ in 2014. 

The Tracy Reese flagship store opened in New York in 2006. In a New York Times interview marking the store’s five year anniversary, Reese described her design vision: “We love pretty, we like beautiful, flattering, colors! That’s what people come here for. There was a moment when big stores weren’t into that but our customer always was, and she was coming here”.

Reese is now a go-to designer for many celebrities. She’s worked with the likes of Michelle Obama, who wore Tracy Reese Dresses on a First Family visit to Hawaii in 2011/2012, as well as at a ceremony in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. She has also worked with Taylor Swift and Sarah Jessica Parker, to name just a few notable public figures.

She now sits on the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Board of Directors, having been inducted in 2007. She is also involved in many social causes including the AIDS Fund Committee for the New York Community Trust. 

In 2019, she continued to make waves in the industry by founding the sustainable clothing brand ‘Hope for Flowers’. 

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Jake Walker-Charles

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September 2021
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