Minimalism often seizes designers in periods of uncertainty: when the fashion industry is on the ropes, say, or when a given designer needs a reset. But the work of Harris Reed, the 23-year-old English-American designer, suggests that fashion is entering a new period of exuberance. Reed just graduated from Central Saint Martins, fashion’s most prestigious graduate school, but has already been hard at work: dressing Ezra Miller in a feathered top hat and Solange in a portrait hat with a circumference to rival a bird of prey’s wingspan, and forging a creative partnership with Harry Styles that has electrified the possibilities of the blouse.
“Gender-fluid clothing has become a vessel to be taken in whatever way you see fit,” says Reed by phone from England. “I might wear the same blouse I made for Harry, and I might wear it in a very feminine and sweet and innocent way. Harry’s onstage, chest fully out, sweating, rocking out. He really reclaims it for his own self.”
Reed is already a pioneer of a new age of gender-fluid fashion, whose bell bottom suiting silhouettes, ruffled blouses, and millinery conjure the libertine sexual attitude of Mick Jagger and David Bowie, as well as the Romantic period’s delicate masculine vanity. Their six-look graduate collection, which was shared widely on social media, demonstrates how their work veers towards the fantastically extreme: a tutu over a tuxedo; a hoop skirt cage over bellbottoms; and a lace veiled hat in supersized-parasol dimensions. If a decade ago “androgynous clothing” mostly meant men’s tailoring concepts reconfigured for women, it’s now led by a feminine, theatrical spirit.
The reason for this new shift in gender-fluid dressing, Reed explains, is that trans and gender-diverse voices in the fashion industry have become leading influences on design, “whether that’s Hari Nef, whether that’s someone like myself—people that are big activists.” Brands like Gucci, where Reed has interned (and also appeared in a perfume campaign and walked in the 2019 Cruise show last year), are modernizing the idea, centuries old, when “to be ‘feminine’ was actually perceived as a beautiful, masculine thing.”
Seeing the confluence of gender-fluidity and fashion has made Reed an advocate for Mermaids, a United Kingdom-based organization that supports trans and gender-nonconforming children and teenagers. Perhaps most crucially, it provides a hotline to educate parents and families, offering the “tools to be able to be the best kind of support system they need to be for their children.” Reed adds, “I was so lucky to have parents who really loved me and supported me, but I think that even they could have used a bit of guidance and a bit of help. And I know that there are so many families that are not accepting and not supportive, and [if someone’s] family doesn’t want to reach out to the service, they can and get the tools they need.”
The new era of gender-fluid clothing marks a new era for fashion: one where pure self-expression replaces the need to fit into an authoritarian designer’s vision. “I think we’ve gone away from the days where you have Gianni Versace dressing you so you look like ‘a Gianni Versace girl,’” Reed says. Now, “It’s not this person wearing ‘me,’ but really reinventing and reclaiming not just what the garment is, but what the garment narrative is.” They might design something “from this Orlando reference, very poetic, very Old World-y, but someone else wears it, and he’s a fucking glam rock pirate, beaming sex and Mick Jagger when maybe that wasn’t even the original reference.”
This spring, the realities of lockdown meant Reed had to be particularly resourceful in making glam rock pirate looks: the graduate collection fashion show for Central Saint Martins, a widely-covered industry moment that has launched the careers of Lee (Alexander) McQueen, John Galliano, and Stella McCartney, went digital. That meant Reed served as both the visionary behind and the face of their brand—and although their work echoes the grand theatricality of early John Galliano, who dressed himself and friends in French court costume to seize London’s gay club scene in the 1980s, Reed seems poised to take a humbler role in the industry. “There should never be a fashion week; there should be seasonless presentations,” they assert. “There should not be men’s and women’s clothing; it should be fluid clothing. I think there should be this idea that you pass down clothes generation to generation—your daughter, to her trans daughter, to her son, to her nonbinary kid.” That, Reed says, is simply the test of modern clothing: “That’s what clothing needs to do to have longevity,” they say.
Reed believes a fashion brand should be a platform for other artists and issues, and to support organizations that align with their spirit, like Mermaids. “I have to uplift young artists, and then hopefully have big brands be able to use their financial support to uplift me, to get my message out there and to get my vision out there,” they say. And if that’s not enough: “I have some really wacky collaborations and things coming out into 2021.”
But whether or not fashion week comes back, and whether Reed is producing one-of-a-kind goods or one-off collabs, they’re after something a little more ambitious: nothing less than a ground-up rethinking of what makes fashion. After all, they add, “I don’t think a clothing company in 2020 needs to make clothing to be a brand.”
Credit: GQ – Click here to view the article
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