HARRIS REED DOES DEMI-COUTURE
Harris Reed isn’t one to comply with convention. Despite only graduating from Central Saint Martins back in May, the gender-fluid designer has put out a collection with MAC Cosmetics – which drops today – and has dressed Harry Styles in the star’s now monumental US Vogue cover. Still, the British-American designer, despite having what could be deemed a superstar success story so far, can’t deny the pressures lockdown 3.0 has had on both him and his brand.
“I would be lying if I said it’s been easy,” says Reed over Zoom, who admits he’s running on two hours sleep (which to him, is a perfectly normal amount). He calls me from The Standard in Kings Cross, where he and his talented team of helpers have spent the most part of the last two months in his small studio space there. Trying to buy even a button here in London has been “a mission and a half,” affirms Reed – who has been Addison Lee-ing most of his fabrics, alongside picking them up by bicycle – “my thighs look great, it’s done wonders!”
Lockdown restrictions have pushed Reed to really question the purpose of his brand. His debut, off-schedule London Fashion Week collection is not ready-to-wear, but demi-couture, inspired by his love for the likes of Viktor & Rolf whilst studying. “With this new generation of graduates and young designers out there, it really is about finding different and unique ways to express your messaging,” Reed explains. “I think for me you can always bring the commerce in later if you have a strong meaning and a purpose. But if you come in with commerce in mind, I feel like unless you have a ton of money, I don’t see how you sustain yourself.”
It’s a brave move, one that’s rooted in sheer escapism, where the pendulum has swung far in “the form of self-expression”, Reed says. The six-looks that appear here continues from where his graduate collection left off, mashing mens- and womenswear in a tongue-in-cheek manner, one that sticks a firm middle finger up to gender-fluid naysayers. (Recently, the BBC pulled down an interview with Reed from its Instagram after the post was inundated with hateful comments.)
Whilst his vision for the collection began light and ethereal, lockdown confinement caused Reed to begin feeling outraged, rebellious even. He turned his eye to the anarchy of London’s punk movement, hand spray-painting meters-upon-meters of tulle which seeps from sublime tailoring and demi-couture gowns. The look is completed with 18cm platforms made in collaboration with Roker and elaborate peacock-plumed headpieces by milliner Vivienne Lake, inspired by punk mohawks.
Reed says he designs with the final picture in mind, working with 10 Magazine contributor Jenny Brough to capture the collection in all its anarchist glory. “When I sleep at night, I see the world I want to create,” he says. “When I received Jenny’s images, I cried because I was like this is exactly what I had in my head.”
Though his fashion is driven by fantasy, Reed is eager to point out that the wearer of his garments is the foremost focus, not the pieces themselves. “I’m always trying to make it so important that I’m not trying to make a creature,” says Reed. “I want the people in my clothes to embody a character, a narrative that’s within themselves.” This is a concept explored in the collection’s accompanying film, where a character is embraced by different facets of themselves – represented by each of the six looks.
“Going forward in the future, I think it will only get bigger and more expressive,” says Reed. It’s a refreshing approach, totally defying what’s expected of a young designer in this current state of fashion flux. Reed’s a leader of change, care to join him?
Photography courtesy of Jenny Brough.