Tracy Reese was a mainstay of the New York fashion industry for decades, producing colorful, feminine ready-to-wear collections under her own name.
Reese's vibrant aesthetic hadn't changed when she returned to Detroit in 2018 and founded the slow-fashion Hope for Flowers company.
Her unique design idea was included in the Hope for Flowers x Naturalizer shoe collaboration that launched on April 15. The collection comprises nine styles in crimson red, sapphire blue, and fuchsia.
“They're fun, feminine, and incredibly comfy,” Reese told FN. “I think they'll be hugely successful.”
The collection features recycled insole boards, recycled linings, and fabric uppers manufactured with sustainable yarns.
“[Having'] a champion for change in the fashion industry like Tracy was vital to us and our sustainable path,” said Angelique Joseph, vice president of design at Naturalizer. In addition to using 100% recycled materials in all goods and shoeboxes by 2025, Caleres owns the Naturalizer brand.
Reese is also the vice chairperson of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She explains her attempts to develop a purpose-driven company and evaluates the industry's progress.
When asked how sustainable the fashion industry is, Resee does not mince words — the industry has a lot of work to do.
‘“Many tiny firms put responsible design and production first in everything they do. But they do it in microcosm. We need more big brands to prioritize this and educate consumers. It's the only way to stop the fast-fashion cycle that's destroying the supply chain. It is extremely damaging to both employees and the environment.”
However, she did note big progress from one major label. “Ralph Lauren's work inspires and impresses me,” she said. “This is a significant brand investing in industry-wide innovation.”
As for the role individuals must play, Resee spoke directly about merchants.
“Retailers must join in. It must be vital to them. They must search out these assets. They must champion those who are advancing sustainability, responsible design, and production. It's up to us to make it appealing to consumers."
Resee also mentioned the CFDA’s efforts as a leading body in the fashion industry. Regardless of whether people or companies are members, she pointed to the “wealth of resources for making products and processes more sustainable and ethical” that are available to everyone. Also, she says, the CFDA is “representing the industry in the New York Fashion Act” and engaging with legislators and lobbyists.
Hope for Flowers, Reese’s new label was launched at the height of the pandemic, but she says it may have been a blessing in disguise.
“It helped us regain our balance. We have 30 specialist stores across the country. Growing slowly and steadily allows us to maintain the brand and the programming we have here in Detroit, including our Art Enrichment Programs,” she told WWD.
Finally, Resee decided to partner with Naturalizer because of their parallel paths and perspectives as creative companies. She learned a great deal on how to develop responsibly-made shoes, and Resee says Naturalizer ”performed a lot of sourcing for me to make my concept a reality.”
For the veteran designer, adding her signature color, shapes and pattern to the Naturalizer base was a sustainable way to launch a new look — making the decision a no-brainer.