Thriving in our Outrage: A Look at Harris Reed’s Graduate Collection
Illustration by Vitoria Mendes
Harris Reed may have only just finished their final year at Central Saint Martins, but the young designer is well on their way to revolutionising the fashion industry. Their ethereal, non-binary looks are becoming widely celebrated for embracing genderfluidity, and provoking discussion around self-identity and expression in the modern age. At 24, they have already dressed the likes of Solange Knowles and Florence Welch. This early success appears to be uncompromising with the release of their graduate collection in the midst of a global pandemic.
Entitled ‘Thriving in our Outrage’, the six looks were debuted on their website in mid-May in lieu of the traditional end-of-year show. The collection pays flamboyant homage to some of Reed’s greatest inspirations; from outlandish aristocrats to 1970’s rock and roll bands. It features towering platform boots, oversized lapels, caged petticoats, and their signature wide-brimmed, chin-strap hats which have garnered their own mass following over the past year. It is certainly an outlandish feast for lockdown eyes.
The starting point for Reed’s designs came from an old interview they stumbled upon whilst conducting research in the CSM’s archives late at night. It was with Henry Paget, the eccentric 5th Marquess of Anglesey who lived an unapologetically flamboyant life during the 19th century, that Reed gained inspiration. They were famed for performing Oscar Wilde plays in their converted chapel and spent the equivalent of £4.8 million on costumes for one production alone. They lived their life in defiance of societal expectations, deciding not to conform to gender norms and conducting themselves in a ‘fluid extreme’ that resonated with Reed’s own experience. The theatricality and opulence of Paget’s existence can be seen in the collection’s exaggerated silhouettes and juxtaposing of masculine shapes with extravagant textures. If the designer had lived a past life, it would have certainly been that of the well-dressed Marquess.
Another influence on the show came from flamboyant 1970’s rock bands such as the New York Dolls. It was their unique hybrid of masculine tailoring with all that sparkles that attracted Reed like a magpie to silver. Flares and giant lapels feature throughout the collection, as does copious amounts of glitter. There is also a nod to mid-century debutante dress with voluminous skirts and caged petticoats. The assemblage created from these contrasting elements makes the looks not only gender-fluid, but also time-fluid. If Virginia Woolf had written Orlando today, it would have been only natural to assume that she had drawn inspiration from the collection.
What makes Reed’s show a vision for the future of fashion, apart from being a non-binary utopia, is its digital form. Reed had to adapt the presentation to conform to lockdown rules. Instead of a physical display, they therefore decided to photograph themselves wearing the various looks from the safety of their own home. The pictures were taken by fellow student and isolator Bella Thomas, whilst Illustrator Lukas Palumbo was tasked with the role of hand-painting the sets. Animations were later added by Lauren Deane Hunter. The result was a fabulous set of images that go some way in suggesting that the chaotic Fashion Week is unnecessary when promoting a brand. Reed’s Instagram filter featuring a digital version of one of their larger-than-life hats was also a massive success in drawing attention to the new collection. Within 24 hours of its release, it had popped up on the profiles of over a quarter of a million users worldwide including those of Kaia Gerber and Maggie Rogers. This may very well be the start of virtual dressing.
To attempt to sum up Reed’s graduate collection in a sentence would be a disservice to their creative prowess. Their influences are so wide-reaching and diverse that the resulting looks cannot be easily defined. It is simply unconfinable.