Billy Reid Brings Easy Style to the Big Easy

Erika Goldring

New Orleans is an excellent destination for food and drink, but finding a stylish frock there can be like tracking down ripe tomatoes out of season. The newest Billy Reid shop, nestled among a cluster of antiques stores on a charming corner of Magazine Street, aims to fix that. “There’s a palpable energy in this town right now,” the fashion designer explained between sips of a bourbon cocktail and bites of duck liver pâté at the store’s opening party last weekend. “There are just a lot of positive vibes here.” The New Orleans store is his 10th to open in 9 years, joining locations in Nashville, Atlanta, Austin and New York.

The handsome Reid, who greets almost everyone with a bear hug, has established himself as a sort of Ralph Lauren of the South. His men’s clothes are firstly about fit — there are no shrunken trousers or blousy button-downs. And his classically tailored essentials get repeat wear for the simple reason that they are always just right. The women’s collection, started in 2008, is cultivating a breathless following as well. His reliance on the old-fashioned, word-of-mouth campaign — there are no national advertising spreads or social marketing blitzkriegs — is a testament to the appeal of his brand’s easy style.

The Louisiana-bred, Alabama-based designer employs a heavy dose of Southern hospitality in his stores, and this one is no exception. “Shopping ought to be a special experience,” he says, “and our staff are like great hostesses.” They even fill the space — which he’d been fantasizing about for the last five years, finally able to pull the trigger when the real estate market opened up a bit — with fresh magnolia clippings from the shop’s garden. On special occasions, local chefs will entertain out of the open kitchen in the back. And for those who can’t decide whether to go shopping or catch the game on Sundays, there’s a flat screen TV on the porch.

Billy Reid, 3927 Magazine Street, New Orleans;