LONDON – Emerging designer Harris Reed is fast becoming one of fashion’s favorite rebels.
While still a student at Central Saint Martins, he caught the attention of Alessandro Michele, dressed Harry Styles and created capsules for Matchesfashion. In 2020, his star continued to shine against all odds: he might not have graduated from the degree he envisioned last summer, but the debut of his graduate collection on Instagram – which included looks only. digital and bespoke AR filters – had a global reach that no The runway could match and offered the industry a glimpse of what a fashion brand can look like now.
A few months later, Reed found himself designing a dress for Styles to wear for the American Vogue first cover featuring a man. Now he’s unveiling his first collection after graduation and giving London Fashion Week a much-needed boost of optimism and energy.
The collection is made up of six demi-couture looks that continue the conversation about fluidity and self-expression, in its most unapologetic and extreme form.
“We really need to push this narrative in society of what gender expression is and what breaking the mold looks like,” Reed said in an interview. “I was fascinated by this idea of punk and rebel. We’re stuck right now, everything’s closed, so even getting a button requires jumping through hoops. It really created this feeling of revolt in me.
Indeed, at a time of low morale across London – prolonged lockdowns and the consequences of Brexit are wreaking havoc – Reed’s contagious energy, appetite for opulence and determination to spread the message of gender fluidity. around the world seem to be the ultimate act of rebellion.
“I love the idea that the greatest creativity feeds on pressure and constraint. Diamonds form under pressure and it’s my diamond exploding, ”said the young designer, highlighting his extravagant dresses and tailoring, which combined traditional men’s tailoring elements with fishtail tops or tops. spray painted tulle panels.
“In the past, women were always depicted showing too much of their body or showing a cleavage through low cuts. I really wanted to play with those proportions on a more masculine body type, and be able to capture that as a less sexual and more powerful image, ”said Reed, who launched the collection on Instagram.
“Each look is surrounded by a bright light in burnt orange, dark purple or royal blue. “The colors correspond so clearly to this idea of aura. It’s different sides of a person, or different stages of rebellion, coming together in that character’s more fluid ego, ”Harris explained.
The creation of the collection forced Reed and his small team to get more resourceful: sourcing local fabrics, reconstructing finds in charity shops and relying on the generosity of many foreigners, from the currently closed hotel that was offering Reed the one of his rooms as a studio in the abandoned pub. which allow the designer to use his outdoor space to spray paint the 250 meters of tulle that make up the collection.
“It’s a real labor of love. Our fingers were bleeding because we didn’t have access to proper sewing machines and had to use servants or sewing needles, ”added the designer, who saw the process as an opportunity to learn to create the least. waste possible and get creative with reworking and reinventing existing fabrics and clothing.
“It’s become this really beautifully authentic process of not just working with friends and local artisans, but thinking in a way that I think is very modern and aligned with the future of fashion.
Reed has a compelling vision for what the future of fashion should look like, and that involves the return of showmanship and fashion that challenges its audiences and structures.
“My generation in particular, and my young creative colleagues, are really embracing this idea of bringing art back into fashion,” said Reed, recalling the Lee Alexander McQueen era. “It’s really not the glitter and the glamor, but the showmanship that could make people feel panicked, or weird, and encourage them to wonder who they are. I really think we can hopefully take fashion back and do something completely different with it – not that it was bad, but I think it needed a bit of a wake-up call.
Then again, the idea of the struggling artist who frowns on any commercial endeavor – celebrated in the 1990s and early Aughts – isn’t something Reed, like many of his Gen Z peers, does. subscribed.
In fact, while working on bespoke pieces for Styles or larger-than-life corseted demi-couture pieces, he also ran a makeup collaboration with MAC and a candle line, developed with his mother.
“I really want my clothes to be receptacles for a message, but I realistically know that not everyone can have a Harris Reed dress or suit in their closet, but I hope the message on the expression of self can be infused into candles, makeup and all the exciting collaborations I have to come, ”said Reed, who is also looking to shake up the structure of a modern fashion business, shifting the focus of several collections from ready-to-wear per year to collaborations, make-to-order parts and alternative product categories.
“My [niche] in fashion it’s flowing clothes for everyone and I also want to find my take on how I’m going to grow my business and break down those barriers. You can be a successful brand, make art, create pieces that will be used for major editorial moments, and then just find smart ways to deliver them to the masses. “
A natural and digital native storyteller, Reed chose to launch his collection on Instagram, through images and a short film produced by a team made up of Styles stylist Harry Lambert and DJ Honey Dijon.
“I only really knew this digital space. In making this film, I realized the power you have in the virtual realm, ”said the creator, stressing the importance for fashion schools to better integrate social media communication into their classes.
Does that mean there will never be a Harris Reed show, even after the world opens up?
“When I was at Gucci and elsewhere, I saw extremism, the tears in Alessandro’s eyes, the reaction of the guests, so obviously there is that desire. But I’m intrigued how we can push what a podium looks like – I don’t think I could ever do the top-down walk, ”Reed said.
“I want to do some form of physical expression, but I have a feeling it could be more like a play, an opera, an event. It has to perform a lot better – my generation is used to TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, everyone is seen behind the silver curtain. The first line means less and less as we age and things are more and more exposed. I would love to reinvent what this front row looks like. “
Most importantly, Reed’s ultimate mission will be to champion fluid expression and ensure that growing children can see each other, regardless of what gender they identify with. This is why the reviews and rumors surrounding the dress the styles wore fueled Reed’s determination even more.
“Growing up in America, where if you weren’t white or straight something was wrong with you, I knew putting a man on a dress in American Vogue would spark controversy. But what’s great is that I’ve taken people’s questions about identity and their self-expression issues as fuel for my future work and what I’m doing. It was such a powerful moment: I really feel like me, nine years old, sitting in a playground, leafing through a magazine, if I had seen a man in a robe, I would probably get inside a lot quicker and I I would probably have fewer years of crying and trying to figure out who I am.
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