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In the Studio: Harris Reed

We had the privilege of sitting down with visionary fashion designer, Harris Reed, ahead of the much-anticipated debut of 'Shadow Dance' which kicked off London Fashion Week.

Ahead of the launch, we delved into the inspirations, passions, and motivations driving his creative journey. Join us as we uncover what fuels his innovative spirit, what ignites his excitement, and the compelling story behind his pursuit of fashion design.

What was the defining moment that drove you to become a fashion designer?

I never knew I wanted to be a fashion designer, per se. As a child, I was drawn to the idea of dressing up, playing with clothes, diving into a box of fabrics, make-up and hats and creating a different persona. It wasn't until around the age of 9 or 10 that I began to understand the roles of designers, stylists, creative directors, and photographers. I quickly realized that being a designer was the path for me. I love the process of bringing together various materials and makeup to create not just an outfit but a whole new aspect of oneself. So, around the age of 10, I confidently declared my aspiration to become a designer.

If you weren't a celebrated fashion designer, what other creative or professional avenue would you have liked to explore?

I'd probably say I would be a historian. I'm obsessed with history—going to museums, reading. I really love anything that delves deep into the past. So for me, the idea of being in a quiet space is appealing. I spend most of my time surrounded by hundreds of people in big venues and spaces in such a loud environment. Sneaking off somewhere with a book and really being able to kind of deep dive into the past in a way that's informative is something I love. We learn so much from the past.

Do you have a personal motto or philosophy that guides your life and work?

Always follow your gut—you might be early to the party, but you'll be the one laughing when they're all copying your bad dance move! I love the idea that I've always been a bit ahead of my time, especially when I think about how I position my way of dressing or my beliefs. I've always felt like I've been a bit early to the party, but then soon enough, people catch up, and then they start doing crazy dance moves.

Where do you typically find inspiration for your designs?

I would say mostly at museums. I love to visit the National Portrait Gallery and Tate Britain. Additionally, I enjoy going to galleries like White Cube, Gagosian, and Sadie Cole’s. I appreciate a mix of modern art with heritage, finding that juxtaposition always embodies a fully-fledged, authentic, and realised sense of inspiration that resonates with me.

Which fashion designers or artists have had the most significant influence on your work, and in what ways?

It's always been about the early days of Vivienne Westwood and McQueen. It's not just about their extraordinary clothes; it's about the way they presented their collections. Vivienne Westwood stood for something—it was about punk, rebellion, and making a statement. That kind of change is what I strive to evoke in my work and how I present my collections. Similarly, with McQueen, we know he was an extraordinary fashion designer, but for me, it was his understanding that shows were about more than just showcasing clothes. He created characters and worlds; it was less about simply sending models down a catwalk to make a sale. So, I've always aimed to encompass that essence in my collections and my work.

London is a city teeming with creativity. Do you have a favourite spot in London that stimulates your creativity or where you find peace?

I would choose Portobello Market. Living in West London, I enjoy strolling down Portobello Road on a sunny afternoon. I often find incredible tapestries and vintage 1960s dresses there. What I particularly appreciate is the juxtaposition of items from various cultures, which feels rich and vibrant to me. Whether it's discovering historical artefacts like a beautiful vase or stumbling upon an incredible vintage faux fur stool, the market offers a diverse range of treasures. I love creatively combining these pieces, whether it's incorporating them into my wardrobe or decorating my home. It's a beautiful aspect of the process that challenges norms for me.

Your designs have challenged traditional gender norms and redefined ideas of masculinity. Can you elaborate on the vision and message you aim to convey through your work and how you see their impact evolving in the future? Do you anticipate your designs continuing to reshape societal norms, and in what ways do you hope they will influence the fashion industry and broader cultural perceptions of gender and identity?

For me, it's about being genuine. Everything in my work comes from a raw and honest place, reflecting my identity as someone who challenges norms. When I came to London, I was a queer individual who used they/them pronouns, exploring my non-binary identity. I've never aimed to break rules just for the sake of it or to make noise. Instead, I stay true to who I am, even as my identity evolves. As the brand expands globally, I hope it continues to champion individuality and inclusivity, creating a more accepting, queer-friendly space. I also aspire to use our platform to advocate for parental acceptance of their children and their aspirations. Ultimately, my goal is to uplift everyone around us while remaining genuine and true to myself.

Having already designed for iconic figures like Harry Styles, is there someone else you dream of designing for? Who would it be and why?

Tilda Swinton has always struck me as extraordinary, and she has been on my bucket list for some time. I've often said that I didn't want to dress her immediately, but rather at a later stage. It feels like now, nearing my 7th show and having completed nearly 10 collections, would be the right time to collaborate with her. Her role in the film Orlando has profoundly impacted me as a young queer person. Witnessing a gender journey portrayed so powerfully on screen was incredibly moving. Virginia Woolf, one of my earliest references and favourite writers, was a transformative figure for me. Tilda Swinton, in her versatility and boundary-pushing expressions, has always inspired me to explore my own gender identity and expression. Whether it's wearing a gown one day, a full face of makeup the next, or a stripped-back, masculine suit, she effortlessly navigates these different realms. She remains a constant source of inspiration and beauty.

Your recent 'meeting of minds' with Fromental has created quite a buzz. What was it like working with them, and how did this collaboration influence your creative process?

I absolutely adore Tim and Lizzy. Truly, I've never met a couple more ecstatic, passionate, extraordinarily kind, and generous with their time and knowledge. Their attention to craftsmanship was incredibly influential for me as a designer who loves to play within monochromatic spaces. While I adore black and white and I'm drawn to gold and metallics, I was quite nervous about delving into a more colourful realm for the catwalk at Tate Britain. Having Tim and Lizzie guide me through and share their incredible knowledge of wallpaper was wonderful. Being able to use archive pieces and reimagine them onto silks, play with drapes, and bring back to life hidden treasures from their dreams has been an incredible experience. I love collaborating because it enriches the work and makes it more vibrant and exciting. Working with Tim and Lizzie has truly been one of the biggest pleasures for me, and perhaps my most enjoyable collaboration to date on a runway show.

Your work is at the forefront of promoting gender fluidity in fashion. How do you see this evolving in the future, and what role do you hope to play in this evolution?

I think I'm just going to keep being my genuine self and keep making things that feel right to me, and hopefully that just keeps the pendulum pushing towards a more open, beautiful, and fluid future. One big hat at a time!

Looking forward, what new frontiers do you wish to explore in fashion design? Are there any specific projects or collaborations you're particularly excited about?

I would love to expand more into home design. I've always envisioned the Harris brand extending into people's daily lives, similar to brands like Fendi and Valentino. Whether it's through pillows, wallpaper, carpeting, or other fabulous objects, I want to create items that make people feel amazing. Branching into different pillars is a big goal for me, and I believe home design would be a significant aspect. I hope to collaborate closely with my Fromental family in this endeavour.

Could you share with us who your style icon is and the reasons they hold that special place for you?

I would have to say Elizabeth Taylor. She was always an unapologetically fabulous icon, and she had a deep love for jewellery. She never broke character once, and I have immense respect for anyone who knows their worth and remains true to themselves.

Is there a particular indulgence that you consider essential and would never give up?

I have an addiction to vintage shopping. I'm obsessed. I adore beautiful things—fabulous tassels, fringes, and stunning bags. Vintage shopping is a complete indulgence and addiction for me, something I couldn't live without. It informs so much of what I do and is integral to who I am.

Can you tell us about an object that holds great significance for you, one that you would never consider parting with?

Probably the one thing my grandfather left me before he passed away was his Scotch glass. It's a beautiful old crystal glass he inherited from his father, and it holds incredible significance for me. Whenever I sit in a room, I always make sure it's well-lit by lighting a candle. Then, I savour a glass of beautiful Scotch, carefully chosen to suit my mood.

Favourite artist?

Ooo, Lady Gaga and Francis Bacon

Favourite building?

Chateau Marmont

Favourite restaurant in London and New York?

This is tough. For London, I'm always changing, but for now, I'd say Gold in Notting Hill. And for New York, I just love indulging in big bowls of pasta at the Bowery.

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