Fluidity, theatricality, and poetry. These are the words that have signaled Harris Reed’s approach to design, from his introductory Spring/Summer 2019 collection, and the dressing of Harry Styles and Beyoncé, to him saying in an interview with METAL, “I use stories as a way to weave through my issues and process what’s happening in the world around me. I take these narratives and mold them into a physical collection.” Ultimately these narratives, whether they seek their ingenuity from Sir Herbert Maxwell's 1897 literary work Sixty Years a Queen Fall/Winter 2022), or the grandiosity of the Victorian Debutante Ball (Spring 2023 Ready-To-Wear), carry with them, the ambition to beyond challenge our far more primitive notions of dress and gender. Reed carries the aspiration to introduce us to a more contemporary perspective, held by a designer to whom these two issues have never seemed more urgent.
For his Fall/Winter 2023 collection, presented inside London’s indomitably brutalist Tate Modern, Harris Reed sought to carry this aspiration forward, translating it to the show’s audience through a 10 looks presentation influenced by the quote “All the world’s a stage”, from William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It. Thus it was English actress Florence Pugh, dressed in a metallic harlequin skirt, ink-black velvet corset, towering headdress and theatrically illuminated by a spotlight, who set this presentations stage, by narrating a piece of monologue. “Clothing has a transformative power, whether for an actor, or simply a performer on the stage of life. The art of dressing up allows us to express who we truly are, creating a safe space to inhabit in a sometimes judgemental world. Our costumes can change who we want to be seen as, and who we are destined to be. I invite you to embrace the lamé and sequins of life, because... All The Worlds A Stage.” This was a presentation, the designer said, which really encompassed the identity of his brand, which he built around the idea of performance and the determination to challenge the paradigms of gender.
Pugh was followed by ten models, whose looks reflected not only the lyricism of Shakespeare’s poetry but the theatricality and fluidity to which Harris Reed has long been associated. All of these adjectives, were brought to life through silhouettes inspired by Henry Moore’s sculptures, to this effect form-fitting dresses, which clung to their wearer’s curves, were interwoven with sculptural elements to give the body an entirely contemporary form. Similarly mini skirts came padded and bulbous, whilst a little black dress was theatrically extended by a sculptural collar which curved behind the head. The Pageant Queen, another source of inspiration in the collection, appeared through glittering crystal and sequin embellishments, rich black velvets and 80 meters of gold lamé fabric up-cycled from old theatre curtains. Materials which whether used in their entirety or as embellishments, imbued each design, and ultimately it’s wearer with a sense of grandeur.
“This demi-couture collection celebrates the process of getting dressed; a sculptural bustier is paired with hip drapes, and harlequin tights, apparently awaiting the crinoline skirt that should sit on top, fishtail skirting is upturned, reminiscent of someone mid-change with their skirt fanning out upwards and a buster almost reveals the chest, as if put on too quickly and moved the wrong way, capturing a glimpse of deshabille” read the press release. “These moments frozen in time expose a beauty in finding new shapes and parts of the body to reveal, seeing sensuality through different angles.”