Harris Reed and a Tale of Two Cities

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LONDON — Harris Reed’s business is skyrocketing and that calls for higher ceilings.

The British American designer will be hosting his second runway show at the Tate Modern museum, which is 115 feet high.

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“It’s a bit of a dream. It was the first museum I went to when I moved to London eight years ago and I’ve always had a deep fantasy of it,” said Reed on a Zoom call from his atelier two days before his show.

The theatrics matter to Reed just as much as the clothes because he’s all about turning up the volume. This season he has full control of the lighting and the layout, imitating a theater circle with a spotlight following the models as they come out.

Reed is using this show to cement his brand as a British fashion house as he takes on the big job of creative director at Nina Ricci.

“For me it’s just a big moment because it’s a space that Burberry used for a couple of seasons in the past and with everything that’s going to be coming with Nina Ricci, it’s a very important step to remind people that Harris Reed will still very much be here in British fashion and we’re not going anywhere,” said Reed, who on the call questions whether that sounds vain or conceited.

“I kind of wanted a big f–k-off moment because we’re still bringing you made-to-measure pieces, all sourced from England and trying to find sustainable routes when possible,” he added.

Reed shows his collections off the London Fashion Week schedule because his brand doesn’t meet the criteria of 10 stockists that’s been set out by the British Fashion Council. But the stage is all his as one of the youngest talents on the scene right now. His Thursday evening shows often set the mood for the rest of the week.

Harris Reed Fall 2023
A preview of a dress from Harris Reed’s fall 2023 show.

This season he said he resonated with the William Shakespeare quote that “All the world’s a stage,” which he’s using as the thesis for his upcoming collection. In that same week he came across 80 meters of deadstock gold lamé theater curtains that’s being used in the 10-look collection.

“The appetite for the brand from red carpet to private clients, which is really driving the business, has skyrocketed through the roof. This season we had to keep in mind how high art can be wearable pieces,” explained Reed, who admits that his clothes may not be wearable on the streets but he still wants his clients to feel comfortable when attending dinners and galas.

Reed is creating for the modern-day debutantes and pageant girls fused with a juxtaposition of abstract Henry Moore gardens. Fishtail gowns have been reworked and rethought to manipulate the shape; bustiers reimagined by following the organic shape of the body, and the use of foam-like spheres that add a halo to the neatly constructed dresses.

Graduating from Central Saint Martins during the pandemic is what propelled Reed not to think about opening a business that deals in making ready-to-wear collections. He questioned the notion of a fashion brand that led him to creating “performative clothing” that felt like a costume without being a costume.

Two seasons ago Reed said he wasn’t thinking about the everyday practicalities. Clients had told him that they loved his pieces, but couldn’t sit down.

He has restrategized and is turning down the high numbers of requests for custom orders to really understand his clientele, from their habits to taste, so that he can translate his research into the practicality of the garments.

“We have a lot of clients especially in Scotland, England, the Middle East and Hong Kong specifically that are spending 10,000 to 20,000 pounds on a gown, so it needs to have these components, like an internal corset so it holds the breast and body. The appetite of last season and the pieces that we were selling put me in my business brain to understand how we can connect that,” said Reed.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: Harry Styles attends The BRIT Awards 2023 at The O2 Arena on February 11, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Harry Styles at the Brit Awards wearing Nina Ricci.

At Nina Ricci, Reed has promised “magnified femininity” and teased his vision with a black velvet tailored suit worn by Harry Styles at the Brit Awards earlier this month and a black velvet off-the-shoulder gown worn by Adele for a concert in Las Vegas last December. He will be debuting his highly anticipated new look on March 3 during Paris Fashion Week.

“I wish I was supercool and didn’t give a f–k, but I’m the generation that grew up on my cell phone and with the hate comments, positive comments and validation from this dumb little thing [pointing to his Apple iPhone], but I would be lying if I said ‘I don’t care,’” said Reed in his high-pitched American accent.

In times of need, Reed isn’t afraid to turn to those that he “looks up to” such as ex-Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele and Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli.

“Pierpaolo grabbed me, shook me and said ‘you shouldn’t give a f–k if people like it or not, do you like it?’ It was the most simple advice,” said Reed, who calls the designer his “goal in all senses” because of the way he creates a fantasy world with viable and wearable products in the same price brackets as the Harris Reed label.

Reed is working on a secret project that he kept close to his chest, which will be released in March; he hinted that it will express his “brand through other unconventional avenues.”

Outside of Reed’s life in fashion, he’s looking forward to getting married to his fiance Eitan Senerman at some point.

“It reminds me that I have my humanity and I’m actually an individual, young 26-year-old queer person, enjoying it and living in the moment because if not, then you just become a fashion robot, which as much as I am living my dream, nobody wants to be someone that’s not doing what they love,” said Reed, who spends his Saturdays blasting Alanis Morissette and playing with wild branches.

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