U.S. Markets close in 35 mins

Tracy Reese Is Back — & Calling Attention To The Flint Water Crisis

Channing Hargrove

Last February, Tracy Reese took a break from New York Fashion Week to focus on making her business more sustainable and in the process, she diversified her design portfolio. During her hiatus, Reese even created uniforms for the female flight attendants and customers service representatives for United Airlines (employees will take to the sky in their new looks come 2020). Now, she’s back, designing a collection that actually means something to her.

“I needed to go back to my old-school roots,” Reese tells Elle magazine. “I didn’t like what was happening with the production cycle—everyone wants their clothes fast and cheap, and that’s irresponsible. It causes real damage to our planet, to our economy, and to so many people. I wanted to be part of the design process again, from start to finish. And I wanted the cycle to slow the hell down.”

And how did she do that? Reese went back home to Detroit, where she designed and produced her new line, Hope For Flowers, It’s an 11-piece range sold at Anthropologie and made from sustainable fabrics sourced in Flint, Michigan, the site of a 5-year water crisis. “I had to make things that were less trendy and more timeless, more just-plain-gorgeous,” Reese explains, “because we have to consume less. That’s a painful thing to say in fashion, because our industry is built on selling things. But we have to consume less.” What's more, she tells Elle, is “73 percent of clothing ends up in a landfill or being burned.” “That blows my mind,” she said.

Reese is a pioneer in the fashion industry for her commitment to sustainability and inclusivity. She is one of the only Black woman designers in America to achieve mainstream success (alongside Recho Omondi, Carly Cushnie, and Maki Oh). And she’s one of the only Black women to ever serve on the Council of Fashion Designers of America. At the height of Reese’s earlier success, Former First Lady Michelle Obama often helped to shine a spotlight on Reese's talent. Michelle wore a custom Tracy Reese dress to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, catapulting Reese’s then-steady business into a household name.

“It’s a super scary thing to pull out of the public eye,” Reese explains to Elle of her time out of the spotlight , “because in fashion, your identity is so connected to your brand. If it were five or ten years ago, I probably wouldn’t have done it, but at this point in my life — thankfully — I’m not super-concerned about what people think about me. And I’m one of those all-or-nothing type people. I wanted to start with a clean slate, and go after a new mission with my whole self. Having a break was a real gift.”

We love that she's taking the time to stop and smell design the flowers.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

Bloomingdales Taps African Fashion Brands For Its Lion King-Themed Pop-Up Shop

Zara Announces Sustainability Initiatives — But What About Its Factory Workers?

Barneys New York Reportedly Preparing To File For Bankruptcy