'Simon Cowell Takes Style Tips From Me'

L.A. Reid -  second season of The X Factor -May 24, 2012- Getty-H 2017
Gary Miller/WireImage

As a kid, L.A. Reid put clothes on layaway. Now the Epic Records chairman and "X Factor" judge opens up his closet of custom suits -- and 10 Louis Vuitton trunks.

Growing up in Cincinnati, Epic Records chairman and The X Factor judge L.A. Reid says he "became obsessed" with fashion at a young age. "How you dressed mattered," says the 55-year-old music business veteran who discovered Pink, Usher and TLC and played a key role in resurrecting Mariah Carey's career. "We were lower-middle-class, and having tailor-made clothes in your wardrobe was a must." Some things haven't changed, but the price tags most certainly have. During his teenage years, says Reid, he would stare through the window of Dino's, a local Italian apparel store, and occasionally put a sports jacket or London Fog trench coat on layaway (for as long as nine months). Now, the closet in his apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side is healthily stocked with custom suits and shirts, all manner of pocket squares, cuff links, ties and watches. Reid has long been known as one of the industry's sharpest dressers, and he believes it has helped business and morale. "With all I've been through in my career, it feels great knowing that people want to look nice for me," he says. "I love that."


"I used to be a collector, but I lost too many watches being careless," says Reid. Among them: an antique Patek Philippe that was appraised for six figures. "It broke my heart, so I've stopped buying watches. I love them, but I'm done." He owns about 50.


"Shoes are supposed to have character, so I like them to seem old and beat up," says Reid, who looks to Italy for his sockless style. "The Italians didn't have their shoes polished. Everything else was perfect -- the suitswere pressed, shirts were starched -- but shoes were always like tires. They get scuffed up."


"Rod Stewart's manager Arnold Stiefel called me out in an interview, saying I had a valet who traveled ahead of me," says Reid of the 10 Vuitton cases he has used to carry suits. "He made it sound so glamorous yet so over-the-top. I'm a little more sane now."


"The majority of my suits are custom-made," says Reid, who spends $2,000 to $10,000 for each -- and that's after wife Erica negotiates a bulk rate with certain tailors. Says Reid: "I just wanted the clothes, and I didn't pay that much attention to [price], but Erica would double back and say, 'No, no, no. … You are going to do this right, or he will not be back.' Before you know it, I was getting a 50 percent discount." On the high end of his collection are more conservative looks by Bijan of Beverly Hills, while X Factor tapings call for "something clean and simple, not loud." One thing Reid wants to make absolutely clear: "Simon Cowell takes style tips from me, not the other way around."


Reid's pocket square philosophy is simple. "There's no secret; I don't fuss over them," he says of his collection of more than 50. "Sometimes I'll throw one in and just make sure it's straight, but I don't stress over colors or anything because I've already given it thought a long time ago. Most of the things in my closet I've had for eight, nine, 10 years, so I just know the stuff. I seriously can get dressed in the dark. Everything goes with everything; I don't have anything in there that is, like, 'Ewww …' "


Reid doesn't own any button-cuff shirts, so cuff links are key. "Most of mine are gifts," he says. "My wife has bought me a lot, as well as artists through the years like Mariah or Kanye West or Toni Braxton. I keep them in safes because I've lost too many good ones."


Monogramming -- be it on ties, cuff links or shirts -- has deeper meaning for the music mogul, whose real name is Antonio Marquis Reid: "My 11-year-old daughter [Arianna Manuelle] and I have the same initials, and I like the idea that what's mine will one day be hers."