A Fashion Designer Begins Anew in Detroit


DETROIT — If you come from a place that has exported its tastes in design, architecture, fashion and music to a welcoming audience for well over a century; a place steeped in art made of broken glass and low-slung homes with triple-thick brick walls; a place where the bottom fell out in a dizzying way, but where retailers and hoteliers and college students and everyday workers are walking the comeback trail together, you have a healthy respect for adversity, and for problem solving.

You know that setbacks can arrive at any time, no matter how bright your current shine may be. They may knock you down for a bit, sure. But you can get back up.

Tracy Reese is such a person. And that place is Detroit.

Ms. Reese, 55, a Parsons-educated designer with three decades of experience in the New York fashion scene, has dressed celebrities including Taylor Swift, Sarah Jessica Parker and Tracee Ellis Ross.

Ms. Reese, pivoting, is already in a different place.

Her new line is priced from $250 to $425 and incorporates “organic cotton, organic linen and also Tencel,” said Ms. Reese, warm and relaxed at her Detroit office, using the brand name for lyocell, a fabric made from wood pulp gathered from sustainable tree farms. Her sense of color and flow is apparent at her work space, on the second floor of a gritty industrial block of former warehouses.

On the inside, it’s all reclaimed wood, loftlike ceilings and windows that take up an entire wall, decorated with bright orange pillows and a floral quilt draped over a settee. Several pieces from the new line hang from a rack along the wall.

“Some people need the purity and peace of white spaces, but that’s never inspired me,” Ms. Reese said.

This year, she started devoting more time to a house she bought in 2017 in the Midtown section of Detroit. Many of her family members live in the city, including a sister and several cousins.

She and her siblings were raised with a healthy amount of civic pride. Her mother insisted that the family spend its money within the city limits whenever possible. Now that Detroit is pushing ahead post-bankruptcy, Ms. Reese said she has been heartened by all of the entrepreneurs, artists and activists taking a stake in the city, and she decided, “This all can’t be happening without me.”