HARRIS REED | 2021
Interview by Filep Motwary for Vogue Greece online.
Harris, please tell me more about your collection “For Now Unexplained” how did it emerge, and what was the creative process that you followed?
When it came to designing my first collection post-graduation, it was so important to have a very strong message and narrative that I continually try to support through my design work, and through the people that I collaborate with – it’s this idea of fluidity and fluid maximalism at its finest. It’s meant to be loud, in your face, to make a statement, make a change and just be very explosive and very thought-provoking. It felt very natural in a way to take a Demi-couture approach and make a collection that was very much not about sellability but more about driving a very impactful thought process and conversation. The creative process, as you can imagine was insane because we were in the midst of a deep lockdown in London, we were spray painting in our backyards, at an abandoned pub, we were social distanced whilst working in my studio at The Standard London Hotel, we were literally gathering tulle in hallways, it was a very crazy but completely rewarding experience.
This will be your first collection after graduating from Saint Martens, yet you are already making headlines for a while now. Tell me more about your collaboration with Gucci and Harry Styles…
They’ve been really incredible collaborations; it has been amazing to be able to work with Alessandro Michele at Gucci who very much helped me develop as a designer and a creative. Working with people like Harry Styles, as someone with who I’ve been really able to grow through my designs and have an amazing relationship, and be able to be a part of a lot of big moments in his career, that were also huge moments in my career. So, it’s been a really beautiful journey, leading to me fully grown with my own brand and my own creative forces.
How has the pandemic shaped the ways you work and communicate?
It’s made me utilize social media more to communicate my overall brand message, my journey, and being a lot more transparent with people. The pandemic made me realize you could really show people from start to finish how something was made, how buttons were sourced, how you created a process, behind the scenes of a photoshoot, behind the scenes of an interview. Having this amazing transparency with people and showing them the genuine approach that goes into every single detail has completely shaped the way that I communicate.
What is the role of gender in your work and what is your perception of the body you design for?
I’ve always looked at clothing as something that should be completely genderless. I like to think that because I take a Demi-couture approach or when I do my version of “Ready to Wear”, it’s a lot of one size fits many or different sizes. It might look billowy on one person and might be tight and cropped on another person, or it might be oversized and a dress on someone else. I think the body is super important to take into account when you are designing but not gender. I’ve always made clothes that hopefully spark conversation and spark a greater narrative about what we are as people and how we view gender expression and how we view just our own versions of self-expression.
Tell me more about the current social and political issues that you feel most connected to and why?
I think there’s so much going on in the world right now, especially after Black Lives Matter, we went into Black Trans Lives Matter, which was such a huge cause close to my heart, as someone who advocates for the queer community, as someone who has very vocally expressed my own journey with my fluidity. I really saw the power of social media, getting people’s stories out there or holding people accountable – It’s about making people aware and opening people’s eyes and those are issues that I feel so connected to.
About fashion, what are the things you feel that need to be changed, why and towards which direction they should go?
I think fashion needs to not be so scared about being authentic and have a very strong point of view. The old ways of doing calculated marketing decisions and doing things to be trendy are so over. You’re doing things for the right reasons and doing things because you believe in them, even if it might not sell or even if it might fail. We need to go back to people having a strong point of view, which is coming up with a lot of young designers and I’m very excited for my generation and to see where we all kind of move the status quo of fashion.
When did you realize that fashion was your calling? Describe to me the path that you have followed, your inspirations, and your first attempts to create fashion.
My mother is a perfume maker and used to be a model, my father is a documentary filmmaker and used to be an agent, so creativity and expression in all forms are very much around the house, whether I was doing pottery, painting with my mom, doing ballet or playing the violin. I was just always finding different ways of self-expression and it was when I was a child, playing with Halloween costumes that I saw the transformative ability that fashion has to make you a person, that’s showing different facets of themself, and I found it so deeply fascinating that you can walk around and people look at you, they stare, they have something to say. It’s very instinctual, people have such an issue if you’re male and wearing a pink boa they will say horrible things to you but I know that by wearing such an item, you are deeply challenging insecurities they may feel within themselves. I think the psychology behind all of it is so deeply fascinating and it led to me going to Central Saint Martins and starting to design not just for women and not just for men, but actually for myself. It was very much about being completely they/them with my pronouns. I designed for someone that I wasn’t really seeing in the media and that’s when things took off for me in terms of my fashion career.
How do you see fashion now in comparison with the beginning, when you first started?
Throughout Covid and the Black Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter, Combating Anti-Asian Racism movements, brands have to use their platforms to speak up on issues and also take responsibility. The fashion industry is changing and there is a huge wave of people that have to open their eyes – whether they want to or not, ensuring that the important questions are being asked: Is it diverse? Is the team diverse? Who are the people we are listening to – are they white, cis, a heterosexual man? It’s opened people’s eyes and hopefully made people start to question a lot of things in the way that we live our lives.
What is the most surprising element of fashion? I am wondering if you find inspiration outside of fashion…
The most surprising thing about fashion is that it’s something that can be very fun. Fashion really is just there to make you feel like you can put something on in the morning and express the best version of yourself or express a part of yourself that you were a bit nervous or scared about. Outside of fashion, I find inspiration from going to exhibitions, I also love to watch documentaries. Most of my inspiration derives from things that have nothing to do with fashion whatsoever. I’ll go to a really amazing light exhibition or I’ll see an amazing show at the White Cube for instance. I’ll see an amazing young person expressing their fashion on Instagram, through vintage clothing mixed with draping, and this is another way in which I can draw inspiration.
Harris, what would be your ultimate achievement in 10 years, and what are you working on now?
In ten years, I’d like to have a huge brand, and when I say huge, I mean having the resources to be able to create show-stopping pieces. I hope to be very similar to Viktor and Rolf, I think what they’ve done with their company is incredible, their shows make you stop and think and really appreciate the beauty of fashion and the messaging it has, and to be able to use my own resources to help fund more queer charities, be able to give back a lot more and to put a mentorship system in place to help to educate people who maybe want to get jobs within the creative fields. I want to be able to continually put my voice out there but also listen to other people and be able to collaborate with other people and brands that feel very genuine to the company. Right now, I’m working on some very exciting projects that I really can’t say too much about because I’m sworn to secrecy, but people can expect some really big things coming this Fall and I’m very excited.
The interview was around Reed’s first collection titled “For Now Unexplained” and it was scheduled to be published in Vogue Greece online in May 2021. It remains unpublished.
Fighting for the beauty of fluidity, half-American, half-British Harris Reed designs to create conversation. Growing up with a strong sense of self, Reed was able to quickly understand the transformative power of clothing and its correlation with identity and liberation. While still studying at Central Saint Martins, Reed caught the attention of the likes of Harry Styles, Solange, Alessandro Michele, and Ezra Miller to name a few, resulting in high-profile press and interviews placed with Vogue, GQ and Dazed, Another Man, Harper’s Bazaar to name a few. Reed’s design process takes inspiration from the current social and political issues that Reed feels most connected to. The work Reed creates is built from assessing the responsibility that fashion has to spark conversation in relation to the injustices that are happening within society today, yet all while staying true to the brand’s ethos that strives for a vision of gender fluidity and inclusivity.
Photography © Bunny Kinney