For the eighth and final cover of 10 Magazine Issue 67, design superstar Harris Reed is a vision in florals, courtesy of Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, as styled by Sophia Neophitou and shot by Rob Rusling. Only graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2020, the London-based talent has carved himself out as one of the city’s most exhilirating creatives. Sitting down with Paul Toner, Reed discusses his whirlwind of a year, navigating the industry in a way that suits him, and his quest to make fashion fluid.
When I call Harris Reed, he’s sitting cross-legged in the hallway of The Standard – a buzzy hotel in London, where the designer has had a small studio set-up since last autumn. “I’m a wee bit hungover,” he admits, still feeling the effects of a big 25th birthday dinner a few days prior, attended by the likes of Queen’s new lead singer Adam Lambert and The Crown’s Emma Corrin.
Reed and his team of interns have started work on his next collection, which will already be unleashed into the world by the time this issue reaches newsstands, alongside a top-secret project the designer describes as “one of the biggest things I’ve ever done”. It’s hard to believe Reed hasn’t uttered this very same sentence before, considering this red-headed talent has crammed a whole lot of life into the 25 short years he’s been on the planet.
Like a slew of his London-based contemporaries, the pandemic has shown Reed that he can manage his emerging business in a way that suits him, rejecting the seasonal wholesale model as not only a choice, but a mode for survival – both financially and creatively. He’s leading a vanguard of designers making up their own business rules. Whether it’s Christopher Kane focusing on his merch line More Joy, Liverpudlian designer Steven Stokey-Daley creating limited-edition shirts from tea towels, or Fashion East alum Richard Malone working on a strictly made-to-order basis – British fashion today is less about range plans. Instead, it’s about the need to keep diversifying your business model to move with the times.
Like all the above, Reed has pivoted, morphing himself into a flourishing brand of its own. He’s put out a range of candles, teamed up with MAC Cosmetics for a gender-fluid beauty collection and sold a capsule of flouncy blouses made from deadstock fabric leftover in his studio (they sold out within a matter of hours on his e-store). Moving forward, he plans to work exclusively through limited-edition drops, reducing waste and covering his own back when it comes to not being left over with excess product. The collection he’s working on now, he says, is “almost 100 percent sustainable”.
The designer says it feels a little strange to be starting a new collection, still buzzed from his off-schedule London Fashion Week debut back in February. The restrictions of lockdown 3.0 pushed the designer to really question the purpose of his emerging brand – opting to produce a six-look demi-couture collection which won’t go on to be sold in stores. “With this new generation of graduates and young designers out there, it really is about finding different and unique ways to express your messaging,” he told me at the time. “I think for me you can always bring the commerce in later, if you have a strong meaning and a purpose. But if you come in with commerce in mind, I feel like unless you have a ton of money, I don’t see how you sustain yourself.”
dress and underskirt by Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood
While his vision for the collection began light and ethereal, lockdown confinement caused Reed to begin feeling outraged, rebellious even. In the thick of the second wave of Covid, Reed admits that even trying to source a button became “a mission and a half”, begging and borrowing fabric where he could and picking up materials on his bike around the city.
He turned his eye to the anarchy of London’s punk movement, spray painting metres upon metres of the tulle that spilled from sublime tailoring and demi-couture gowns. These were paired with peacock-plumed headpieces by milliner Vivienne Lake, which were inspired by punk mohawks.
“I feel like we all had this huge reality check when Covid happened. I was using tulle that I was buying from Ultimate Craft because that was the only place that was open, I was using spray paint to do the fabrics, it was completely demi-couture in the way it was made but it really was about an artistic expression,” he says. “I think fashion has forgotten that the likes of McQueen, Galliano – they did collections that weren’t actually wearable, but they built this love of fashion and fantasy. [The collection] needed to feel authentically me.”
Since graduating from Central Saint Martins only 15 months ago, Reed says he’s a lot surer of himself today: “I always listen to my gut.” He’s not afraid to admit that he’s still finding himself, either.
For the past three years, the designer has identified as gender fluid, using they/them pronouns, but now finds himself in a place where he is more comfortable going by he/him. “Fluidity for me was never about being non-binary. It was about if I wake up tomorrow and I want to be she/her for the next 20 years, that’s completely who I am, the same way if I want to be they/ them till I die, the same way if I want to be he/ him,” says Reed. “There’s a little bit of rebellion that’s come back into play with me, where I still completely identify as gender fluid but my pronouns will probably be he/ him.”
Reed came out as gay at the age of nine to “really accepting parents”. He moved to London in his teens, and quickly became infatuated with the gender-pushing fashions of Mick Jagger and David Bowie. “I remember coming to London in my skinny jeans, combat boots and All Saints leather jacket and thinking ‘Ok I’m basic as fuck, this is completely not who I am.’”
dress by Valentino, hat by Harris Reed
It wasn’t until he began studying at CSM that Reed really began experimenting with his style. He would go to Charles Jeffrey’s Loverboy club night in Dalston and the Queen Adelaide pub, brushing shoulders with nightlife eccentrics like Princess Julia and – for the first time in his life – finding himself amongst a diverse, queer community.
“All these fantastic characters really made me push my boundaries and I think that’s where my designs really came from,” he says. The first time Reed gained traction on Instagram was for a post boasting his club kid looks. “I had literally thirty minutes and a bunch of pink lamé,” he says, “once I started making clothes for me through going out, everything escalated in a beautiful way.”
In the thick of his time at Central Saint Martins, Reed not only interned at Gucci, but walked the house’s 2019 Cruise show and starred in the genderless perfume ad for Mémoire d’Une Odeur, alongside Harry Styles. Through sneaking into fashion parties, and bumping into high-profile fashion folk in the CSM bookshop, Reed had made quite the name for himself in London. He captured the attention of stylist Harry Lambert, who commissioned the budding designer to create a series of looks for Styles’ 2018 world tour.
“There was a night in Covent Garden at a Tom Ford fragrance party four years ago. I went into the party, got my photo taken for the first time for Getty Images. I felt amazing, walked downstairs and then my phone didn’t have any signal,” he says. “I walked back up an hour later and my life had changed because that’s when Harry wore my stuff on stage.” In the space of a few short hours, Reed’s following had grown by the thousands. A star was launched overnight.
Though no matter the glitz, the glam and the abundance of VIP party invitations that came flooding through the door from then on, nothing could prepare Reed for the task of creating a graduate collection as coronavirus spread across the globe.
jacket and skirt by Alexander McQueen
As the world went into shutdown and degree shows were scrapped across the country, Reed had to build his entire collection from his flat. Second-year student Bella Thomas agreed to self-isolate with Reed to help finish the collection. The pair would work day in, day out in Reed’s spare room. Armed with a basic iron, a regular ironing board, your run-of-the-mill sewing machine and a whole lot of hope, the collection’s final outcome was an ode to fluidity, flamboyance and fantasy in its most fully-fledged form.
Since, Reed has gone on to dress everyone from Lil Nas X and Selena Gomez to Years and Years’ Olly Alexander for his performance with Elton John at the Brit Awards. Not to mention one of his graduate looks – crafted on the floor of his cramped flat – which Harry Styles ended up wearing for his monumental US Vogue cover story.
“When I look at what’s coming up in September, which I’m so fucking excited about, it’s a lot of me bringing in not only my creative ideas, but that meaning of fluidity in a genuine sense,” says the designer. This is Reed at his most free spirited – watch him soar.
Issue 67 of 10 Magazine – BOLD & BEAUTIFUL – is on newsstands Wednesday, September 15. Pre-order your copy here.
Photographer Rob Rusling
Fashion Editor Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou
Text Paul Toner
Hair Massimo Di Stefano
Make-up Terry Barber at David Artists using MAC
Talent Harris Reed
Production Fabio Mayor at Mayor Productions
Digital Operator Matthew Aland
Fashion assistants Brittany Newman, Frankie Reffell and Zac Apostolou
Photographer’s assistants Adam Roberts and Stef Ebelewicz
Florist Victoria Sestier at Effeuillage Studio