“I’ve always looked at fashion as armour,” says LA-born Harris Reed, currently isolating at his aunt’s house in London. “My [Central Saint Martins] graduate collection is really about showing people a world where we are all accepted.”
At just 24-years-old, Reed’s fantastical non-binary creations, described as “gender-fluid opulence”, have already garnered an impressive fanbase. Outfitting the likes of Solange - the designer’s gloriously OTT giant white hat worn by the singer is now virtually wearable via a viral IG filter - to Harry Styles (read on). Harris’ final year collection (entitled ‘Thriving in Outrage’) - made, styled, and photographed entirely in lockdown - is a celebration of boundless creativity. Over voice message, the rising talent invites us into their world of performance and self-expressionism.
My first fashion memory is shopping with my mum, when I was eight. I remember looking at a rack of plaid shirts and picking out a pink Lacoste shirt and thinking ‘this is what I want to wear.’ The excitement I got looking into the mirror was like, ‘Oh wow! This is actually something that I can use to identify how I feel on the inside and express myself on the outside.’
I grew up with my father in Los Angeles, who works in the film industry [Oscar winning documentary producer Nick Reed]. My mum is an ex-model, turned-perfumer-turned-candle maker. For me, it was always so important to be creating – I was always doing pottery and painting with my mother.
Our collaborations first came about because I worked with [Styles’] long-time stylist Harry Lambert. We worked endlessly on a bunch of projects; hats for this editorial, blouses for that photoshoot... and then he was like ‘I think you would get along with a client of mine.’ And so I put together a presentation and showed it to Harry Styles and he really loved it and the rest is history. He understood my work and my message - we were on the same wavelength over where we saw his performance identity going.
It’s a very organic process, working together. I’m really into deep research and pulling references and doing collages in sketchbooks. So, for his world tour that’s what I did. I would do a whole collage with the final drawings, give it to him and we’d discuss what we wanted to alter. It was a very beautiful back and forth. Going into music videos people don’t understand how quickly the turnaround is. Sometimes it’s just a matter of two days. For the Lights Out music video I actually drew [designs] on a napkin in The Bowery Hotel in New York, because I was on the phone with Harry Lambert, and he was trying to tell me what they were going for.
At the moment I’m reading The Poetry Pharmacy, it’s an amazing book, filled with poems. I read it every couple of hours. Also, when I was working on this collection, and needed a bit of a break, I’d blast Maggie Rogers’ and Elvis. The Row actually put an amazing playlist on Spotify – it’s a lot of Elvis, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan.
Recently I’ve been watching Orlando [loosely based on Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel of the same name) and Hollywood on Netflix by Ryan Murphy. Working in design, I think it’s really important to have references from the past. Pop culture brings them to life. That’s why I love working with musicians and artists.
I really wanted my graduate collection to have a thick narrative. So, for me it was looking at the fifth Marquess of Anglesey, Henry Cyril Paget. He was this amazing aristocrat, all about opulence and theatricality, to such an extreme - that really drove the collection home. I also love that film Performance  with Mick Jagger. Men’s tailoring was really romantic in the 1970s, blending the feminine and masculine, [and] encapsulates a lot of what I want to say as a designer. I like looking at regal art and mixing it with, the word iconic is used a lot, but I call it ‘iconic performance of the past.’ Take Freddie Mercury – even the way he danced and expressed who he was, that really inspires me.
Stand for something. Because if not, I think the days of just making nice, pretty clothes is over. I think it’s about really responding to what is going on in the world, to a greater message or purpose. I’ve always talked about being a seasonless designer – it’s crazy that some design houses would do 8-16 collections a year. Gen Z really gives us a new way of looking at fashion - with TikTok and Instagram, it allows brands to diversify their platforms. People need to see what’s behind that velvet curtain, where before people weren’t able to go. The future of fashion is going to be changed forever, but in a really positive way.
IMAGES | @Harris_Reed