When you meet him in person, Brian Reyes is quiet and unassuming -- not the kind of guy you'd expect to launch his own fashion design house at the tender age of 24. Get him around a client, however, and his reticence turns into intensity. He's focused, exacting and yes, even charming.
I caught up with Reyes yesterday during a two-day trunk show at Simone's Boutique in Winnetka, a lovely little jewel box-sized shop of stunning one-ofs and very-few-ofs from labels like Malandrino and Alessandro Dell’Acqua.
Simone and Reyes are long-time friends, but there wasn't a lot of chit-chat going on when I was there. Reyes was busy, and the NorthShore dames were buying.
It's been a whirlwind couple years for Reyes, whose company has gone from just two employees to seven thanks in part to prestigious awards and America -- as in actress America Ferrara, who accepted her Golden Globe for Ugly Betty while wearing his perfectly tailored corseted gown. He shows three collections a year right now, and sells to big luxe stores like Stanley Korshak and Barney's, plus fabulous boutiques like Simone's and even trendy shopping sites like Shopbop. So far he's just fashion, but surely an accessories line can't be far (he's already experimenting with belts). When I asked whether there was a Target line in his future, he demurred, but added that he would be open to creating some sort of secondary, more accessibly priced line if the right opportunity arose.
For two months every year -- including April -- Reyes and his sales director hit the road, making personal appearances and doing custom fittings for clients, working with the current season and also samples of the next one, which can be preordered. Before chasing a rainstorm to arrive in the Windy City, he'd just logged time in Dallas ("They're a hoot, those ladies!") and San Francisco was next.
Reyes doesn't take a hard-sell approach to these fittings. "We just look at their body type to see what's going to look good," he says. He'd done a pretty good job of sizing up the woman he was working with when I was there. The magenta bow-pleated dress ($1488) he chose for her was smashing. Its clean lines and georgette pleats flattered her curves, and Reyes showed her how to rock the versatility of the train-like slip of fabric along the back, looping it around her neck for a more casual look, and bustling it two different ways to create a more elegant sense of drama in the back of the dress. When she seemed unsure of how to recreate what he had just done, he reassured her that she couldn't go wrong: "It's not meant to be precious."
Versatility showed up in another of his designs, a short, full skirt ($575) done in a silk cellophane. Reyes calls the grey-ish hue "washed lilac." The skirt is rocker-cool with a white T, morphs into an elegant dress when paired with a matching lingerie-like top and light-as-air long silk cardigan and even works well with black for an equally refined look. It's this versatility that allows his line to be such a hit with the women of Winnetka while also appealing to the hip, indie-fashionista set that shops at Jake, another local boutique that will begin to carry Reyes in the fall.
Reyes made sure his client stepped into one of his fall dresses -- a jet black shirt-dress accented with elongated epaulettes and an ingenous roll collar. The dress was crafted from a Japanese jersey that had a stiff substance to it like a thick, crisply starched linen, yet the client insisted was so light she felt as if she were naked. Reyes accented her waist with a wisp of a gray snakeskin belt, and the client's own black patent Jimmy Choos added the finishing touch.
So how does this ever-busy fashion entrepreneur find time to come up with his innovative designs? "I don't," he says, laughing. "I never have time to design." Which only means he doesn't get to sit down while he's designing. Instead, he says he carries a sketch pad with him wherever he goes so he's always ready to jot down ideas and inspiration.
Meanwhile Reyes has found the time to custom design gown for Someone Famous -- although he and his sales director were mum on the details. "There is something brewing but it's not confirmed," he says of his next red-carpet celebumodel. "You never know what's going to happen, so we never confirm anything," he says. "It can change two minutes before they're set to go on."