Resort Report: Brian Reyes
PHOTO BY LAUREN WHITE
When a young designer trains with the titans of American fashionâ??Michael, Oscar, Ralphâ??industry expectations are generally high when he launches his own line. “It’s so hard to not be influenced by others,” notes Colombian-born Brian Reyes, who started his eponymous label five years ago, after working at de la Renta. But he has made originality his onus. In the modern sportswear idiom, a truly distinct vision is rare, but Reyes has raised the bar on elegantly structured sportswear and imaginative prints, making him one of New York City fashion’s vital young players. For resortâ??a season where many designers clock in and rehash the classicsâ??Reyes ups his game and gets a little brazen with cut and color. There are dresses replicating the shapes of violins. Seams that mimic the interstices of the Brooklyn Bridge. And even an inventive spin on DIY tie-dyeâ??using food coloring.
COLLEEN NIKA: What was on your mind for resort season?
BRIAN REYES: This time I was thinking of an immigrant storyâ??an Ellis Island, turn-of-the-century story. But I was also just on a trip to Amsterdam and inspired by the porcelain in museums. I ended up basing a lot of the new shapes on musical instruments, like violins and guitars. For prints, I was fascinated by the collision of oil and waterâ??this is pre-BP, I might addâ??so we did these inky experiments that mimic what you see when the ship comes into harbor. We even incorporated the imagery of bridges into the seaming details. Very simple lines, very graphic.
NIKA: What’s been your biggest personal change since you first came to work in design in New York?
REYES: The biggest evolution has been starting my own company. It’s definitely rewarding, definitely challenging. I’m very true to things that I like. I’m cultivating a great audience, a very special customer. But it’s personally rewarding for me to put my own work out there now. Maybe it’s not changing the cycles or the inner wheels of fashion, but it offers its own perspective. It’s very hard to not follow other designers’ leads, but I really strive to be different in a sportswear sense, not an avant-garde sense.
NIKA: You worked with some of the titans of American fashionâ??Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, and Oscar de la Renta. What did you take away from those experiences?
REYES: At Ralph, I loved the vertical integration of the brand, the way he was able to expand his brand without diluting it. Michael was important because I learned a lot about how to achieve modern sportswear with very luxurious fabrics. With Oscar, it was just a treasure working in the environment of an American atelier. He really works like an old-school designerâ??it’s so rare these days.
NIKA: What is your own plan for brand expansion?
REYES: For me it will be about working with other brands in various ways, while maintaining my own line. I would love to consult for other brands. I would love to get involved with “tech performance wear”: LL Bean, Patagonia, those grassroots brands that were built to travel middle America. I could bring a sense of structured femininity to their aesthetic–take it to the next level.
NIKA: How have you noticed the industry change?
REYES: Fashion has become bigger and broader. A lot more people are tuned into it now; it’s more competitive. Fashion is going through a weird moment. It’s a moment where well-priced garments can resonate with the consumer, which I think is great. But because there is so much competition, you really need to hone your message in a way that is natural and not forced.
NIKA: What do you do to stay inspired?
REYES: I like to travel. I like to go to weird spots that show Mother Nature in its unbridled glory. It’s strange to be on a boat and see how the movement and gravity affects people. I was taking note of that in Amsterdam. I also love to go to Maine because the weather is so radical. I just really want to go to Antarctica or something. That would be the ultimate. I would do an entire season based on it!