Alessandro Michele’s latest protégé is LA-born, half British, half Mexican designer, Harris Reed. Recently propelled into the spotlight after being hand-picked by Harry Style to wear his designs on tour, the Central Saint Martin’s student has captured the fashion world ‘s attention with his gender-fluid designs that combined creative silhouettes with modern flamboyancy. Currently an apprentice with Michele in Rome, we fly the talented young designer to London to tell the winning tale of Gucci’s Resort 2019 collection.
Q: When did you first become interested in fashion or know you wanted to be a designer?
A: Sitting in the living room of one of my mothers friends, at around age seveng and telling her; ‘Mom, these curtains don’t match this rug.’ I was obsessed with design and the way people put their lives together, from their home to the way they dressed to the people around them. Building up your life is like putting on your absolute best outfit; you bring warm people around you to keep you feeling warm, the same way you put on a glamorous faux fur 70’s jacket to keep you warm. You put certain fabrics and furnishings into your house to feel, well, warm. I think my deep fascination with fashion came from my fascination of the sociology of it all. Fashion makes one feel like something else, and like the person they know they could or want to be. Fashion creates the power to change and challenge the status quo.
Q: When did you first realize that your work was being appreciated and people were interested in doing what you’re creating?
A: There have been several different times that I’ve truly felt that people understood what I was creating. One of my favorite memories was the night Harry Styles wore one of the first looks I ever made for him. It was on his world tour and I remember seeing videos of him flying across the stage in Amsterdam, dressed like a fluid 16th-century pirate who had just transcended to a stage circa 1973 in a complete bespoke ensemble we created together. The response and support I received was unlike anything I had ever received before. Similar moments would be when Solange Knowles was wearing a complete look I made, shot by Peter Lindbergh on a quiet morning in the north of France. Gender fluidity is something that is very much art the forefront of the conversation today.
Q: When did you first realize that your own aesthetic was fluid and away from the norm?
A: From the second I step out the door, every morning, I have to bein my own universe (which I am most of the time), to not notice that everyone stops in the street and stares, or sometimes shouts something out at me, as I walk down the street. I wouldn’t say I immediately thought; ‘Oh hey, you know what? I dress quite fluid, I must be fluid.’ It was more that I saw how far from the ‘norm’ people perceived me to be and I found the sociology behind the way someone dresses and presents themselves to be deeply fascinating. As time went on and as I’ve got older, all the things like name-calling or the harassment that bothered me so much before, truly began to fascinate me. My thinking began to shift. Instead of being offended, I began to think; ‘Why does this person have such a deep issue with me dressing or presenting myself the way I do? They must be confronting something so deeply buried inside themselves that they are not even fully aware of, just by me being, well, me.’
Q: While many people feel pressure to conform, what gave you the strength, and motivation, to be true to yourself?
A: It’s truly a mix of things. The most important would be my parents’ complete openness to me expressing, discovering and becoming who I always knew deep down that I was. Second, my absolute feeling that if you have something to say, say it. If you have something to show, show it. If you have something to be, be it! Life is too short to hide who you truly are. That said, it’s something easier said than done. You needs people behind you who love and believe in you, whether that’s your family or your own version of family - friends or allies. You need love to bloom into a confident flower.
Q: How did your style evolve to what it is today?
A: I think growing up in so many different places and in so many different houses (I’ve lived in more than 30 houses), I always kinda knew what I wanted to be, what I stood for and who I ultimately was. But I sure as hell didn’t know how to tangibly express that at the age of nine, 12 or 16. It’s been a road of meeting like-minded people who have pushed me to wear what I wear and design the way that I do. It was always there, deep down, but in moving to London, I met people who truly were the rawest forms of themselves, people pushing the limits of the fashion world. Through them, I found, or should say am beginning to find, my feet as a creative and human.
Q: Who inspires you creatively and artistically today in your work?
A: It’s always a mix of a fictional characters that I have created, usually from a whole other place hundreds of years ago, mixed with a strong message. Usually something that is good in today’s creative realm mixed with a recent exhibition I’ve visited at a museum, for example. I then wrap all of this together with my personal and brand ethos of the beauty of fluidity. There are also artists that I always reference back to such as, Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois and other unknown painters of 16th century portraits.
Q: You’re currently working at Gucci, can you tell us about your work there?
A: I am spending four months apprenticing in Rome at the main design offices and it’s an actual dream. I probably shouldn’t say too much, but I will say this: I have never been in a more creative and decadently clever world. Gucci has shown me that the art of fashion is very much alive and that fantasy serves a great hunger for understanding. Self-expression and love is something we each need a little more of.
Q: You’ve said that your clothes ‘create a conversation.’ What conversation would you like to be having this season?
A: When creating anything, I always aim to challenge people’s ideas and, frankly, their fundamentals. By choosing to put something on your body, you are making a statement. People passing by are thinking, acting and re-acting to the way you being “you” makes them feel about their life, their sexuality, and how they see themselves. For me, right now or, ‘this season,’ it’s about creating a conversation about compassion and understanding. Too many horrific things are going on at the moment and I believe it’s because a lot of the people in charge don’t understand what they are talking about and lack any form of compassion for their fellow human beings.
Q: You’ve said that you create clothes in response to political and social issues. What’s inspiring you today?
A: I will always be pushed and inspired by the idea of breaking down the preconceived ideas of gender and what people believe ‘men’ and ‘women’ should be wearing and how they should fit into society. I would have to say that while working at Gucci this month, my mind is constantly exploding with ideas and the mess that America is. With Trump and his views on the Trans community and anyone who doesn’t fall into his ‘male’ and ‘female’ ideals, my mind is just… overwhelmed! It is truly all fuel for the message behind the clothes I design and the message I hope comes across when people see them.
Q: How do you see your own collection evolving in 2019?
A: Next year will be a very exciting year with more exciting things to come in February. I don’t want to say too much, it’s part surprise and part figuring out the winding roads of the future, but I’m looking forward to pushing myself and going into my final year at Central Saint Martin’s alongside some other fantastic projects and surprises.
Q: What was the last app you downloaded?
A: Instagram, as I’m constantly trying to balance being on it and sharing my life and living in the moment with myself and family.
Q: What was the last impossible situation you found yourself in?
A: I’m not sure. My mom has always taught me to problem solve, so any impossibility is just a sign pointing you on another road to getting what you set out for.
Q: What for you is impossible?
A: Nothing is impossible if you surround yourself with people who believe in you and, at the end of the day, you believe in you!
Q: What’s your karaoke song?
A: Is it bad to say anything off Harry Styles’ new album? Sorry, but it’s pretty damn good.
Q: Your favorite wardrobe item?
A: My vintage floor-length python coat. Or wait, if it can be an accessory, my first ever silver platforms.
Q: How would your friends describe you in three words?
A: Passionate, loud, dreamer.
Q: What was the last thing you bought online?
A: A travel steamer; I have OCD.
Q: What made you laugh really hard recently?
A: Hearing my mother laugh. Her laughter is infectious.
Q: And cry?
A: When there was a rumor that the Trump administration planned on ‘erasing Trans individuals.’
Q: Favorite sorbet flavor?
A: Anything peach flavored, thanks Timothy Chalamet 😉
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