When Tracy Reese introduced her sustainable-fashion brand, Hope for Flowers, in 2019, she knew she had to do things differently. Previously, for her now-shuttered namesake line, she would release no fewer than 10 collections in an average year — not including Plenty, her capsule collection, and other project developments. That meant about 30 collections to produce each year.
These days, Hope for Flowers releases about five collections, 15 to 25 pieces each, that include her colorful dresses, tops, skirts and pants.
“It had to be just a completely different business model than the one we were functioning in before,” she said during an interview at her office in Detroit. “And it’s not that the old one was so bad, but we were over designing, we were overdeveloping, we were overproducing.”
Reese’s workspace is housed in the city’s YouthVille Center, a facility that’s bustling with children participating in academic and cultural programs. Here, she has a team of five full-time employees, who handle everything from design to marketing to garment-making, surrounded by colorful, mixed-print furniture, collage boards propped against the walls, and clothing racks.
In 2018, after more than 30 years in New York City, Reese, 58, moved back to her hometown. She knew she wanted to create an environmentally conscious fashion line that would take a slower approach to garment-making, asking herself: How do you make a desirable product that’s responsible, accessible and profitable?
“You either have the choice of kind of trying to compete with fast fashion, which is almost impossible,” Reese said, “or trying to offer something that fast fashion definitely cannot, that the customer recognizes as different than what she’s getting.”
The switch from her first label, which she introduced in 1996 — and which led to her dressing Tracee Ellis Ross, Sarah Jessica Parker and Michelle Obama, hosting runway shows at New York Fashion Week and appearing at retailers in the United States and Japan — didn’t come without readjustments.
In the years leading up to spring 2018, when she released the last line from the original label, Reese noticed more and more how fast fashion was affecting the contemporary market — the middle lane of retail that attracts consumers who follow fashion but consume within relatively affordable price points.
Fast fashion captured the attention of the typical contemporary customer, who recognized it as an opportunity to keep up with the latest trends and not break the bank, despite its manufacturing and materials methods. Yet even with these changes in the industry and pressure from her two business partners to follow suit, Reese refused.
“We had a lot of retailers coming to us asking us to knock ourselves off at lower price points,” Reese said. “It kind of went against everything that I was learning to believe in and understand about the footprint of our industry.”