To anyone who has ever played a video game, think of the moment when you choose your player/character. Do you follow any criteria? I do. Selecting the best-looking, sassier woman available. No matter her skills and abilities, just how confident she looks. Because that’s how confident I feel playing with her. I share that with Ricky Harriott, a rising talent of the British fashion scene who has already earned a spot in the spotlight through his brand Wesley Harriot.
Fashion is an expression of oneself, the way you present yourself to the world. Ricky Harriott knows that, and this is why he wants every woman to feel unbreakable and present herself as a powerful and fearless warrior. At least, that’s how the Wesley Harriot woman is. Taking inspiration from video games and the women from his life, the British designer creates amazing pieces with strategic cutouts, deconstructions, colour purity and volume. Recently, he debuted his Spring/Summer 2020 collection together with VFiles at New York Fashion Week, and as he says, “it was a dream come true!”

“Any of my suits has been constructed to make women stand tall and strong”. So, in times of female empowerment, Harriott is the designer of the rebellion. It is not about a social movement or a trend; it’s about the feeling of power that he wants to keep immutable. And so it must be. It doesn’t matter whether you are a hero or a villain, what’s important here is how you feel in your armour. Ricky Harriott may have taken inspiration from video games, but the women he designs for are not to play with. They came to slay.
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Ricky Harriott, Tottenham-born and contemporary womenswear designer. This first question might seem a bit silly, but why did you name your brand after Wesley if your name is Ricky?
I think I just prefer my middle name. I wish I had a deeper and more meaningful answer, but I just found that my middle and last name sit better together. I think it’s kind of cool having a name that identifies me within my work and a name that is just exclusive to my family and friends. But when I started my brand, it was simply preference.
You launched your firm in 2016, and three years later, you have already appeared in leading industry publications like WWD, Vogue or Dazed. What challenges does a young designer have to face in order to launch his label? What advice would you give to young talents wishing to do so?
This industry is incredibly challenging, and I think we have moved into a time where everyone wants to be involved in fashion in some context. So, you really have to fight to make your presence known. My advice to anyone who wants to perhaps follow this path would be to know what you are bringing to the table. Everyone wants a seat, so you have to make sure that you have something that is exclusive to you. Another thing is to listen to your instincts. I made the mistake of wanting to be a people pleaser when I was younger. Then, I realised that until you don’t actually listen to yourself and what you want, you can’t see what you are capable of.
Also, remaining humble, nothing is promised. Chase opportunities, know your worth and prepare to sacrifice. By saying this, I feel like the fashion industry has to also set its sights on being more inclusive. Diversity is the buzz word at the moment but it feels like a trend to me. I want to see opportunities being provided to young talent that comes from all walks of life, not just the selected few that come from certain schools or can afford to be in the industry. London could really afford to be more nurturing across the board.
Your designs have been worn by celebrities such as Lady Gaga or Golden Barbie. For many designers, this is a turning point in their career. What was it like in your case? Did it attract much attention to your firm?
I have got to work with some of my icons. I am so grateful, you have no idea! Sometimes, I actually can’t believe it. Celebrities really do bring attention to your brand, which can propel you. I don’t think it’s life-changing but it is affirming. It certainly helps to shape your market and reach others that you want to interact with your brand. However, consumers are not silly. Today, it takes much more than celebrity placement to success in high-end fashion. Young brands often attract a young market and it is going to take a lot to get them to commit to spending upwards of £200 on a garment. So yeah, it brings a lot of attention, but it doesn’t sustain the business – nor should you expect it neither!
Also, have you been able to strengthen the relationship with one of these clients?
I have been able to work with some great people and I take it as an opportunity to show them what I can do. I have been able to gain some great relationships, and I am always happy to work with others. Fashion thrives in collaborations in many contexts, so I’m always welcoming to it!
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There are some common traits that – I would dare to say – define your work. Deconstruction, colour purity and ferocious femininity are some of them. Do you agree? How would you describe your style from a technical perspective?
My first question when I design a garment is, ‘does she look powerful?’ I would go as far as saying ‘intimidating’. My women have to look like they can cut through all the bullshit life may present them with. It’s like creating armours for soldiers but keeping in mind that the most important and powerful thing is that she is a woman. That precise balance is crucial.
My colour palette is often muted because I think that takes away presumption. Women get categorised even down to the colours they wear. But when you wash that out, you are faced with her silhouette, her stance, her garment. I think whenever a woman cannot be defined, it unnerves people – and I love that! I love tailoring, I love bodysuits… So, this has been consistent, but my work is rooted in how the women will feel. And I want them to feel unstoppable.
On your website, we can find five collections. Three of them are titled Part II, Part III and Part IV. What about Part I?
The first few collections, in hindsight, it was just me understanding the Wesley Harriott woman. I removed Part I because I made it so long ago that it doesn’t reflect my brand today. Nowadays, I have such a clear understanding of my brand and who the woman truly is! Looking at the past collections before Fall/Winter 2019, Sixth Rank, I think I was trying to impress a lot of people and ignored my instincts. When I did Sixth Rank, I literally stopped looking and listening to others and I just did exactly what I wanted. I have done so since and it is now when you can really see what my brand is about. 
Also, are they connected like a series? Is there a common storytelling throughout the collections?
All the collections are connected. It’s a narrative, it’s the story of the women I created, it’s the story of women I have known my whole life. The thing is, at this point, I simply don’t feel afraid to just be me when doing it.
Now, let’s talk about your Spring/Summer 2020 collection. On the runway, we could see pieces with strategic cut-outs and voluminous trench coats, all under a kind of minimalistic goth aesthetic. What was the inspiration behind it?
I actually never named the Spring/Summer 2020 collection, so I guess it’s just ‘untitled’, which sounds crazy pretentious. Nevertheless, I just didn’t feel the need to name it. I was very lucky to be able to show this collection at VFiles! Before I got the call, I was already working on it and my moodboard was just full of women that made me feel something. I was obsessed with these pictures of Solange dancing and the way the fabric moved on her. I found it really inspiring.
The collection became all about how the woman and the garment move together, how it creases, where it creases, what flesh you can see. I wanted to enhance the female form and enhance certain points whilst doing so. Therefore, tailoring was very important here. The collection looks minimal, which I really wanted, but the details – both hidden and visible – are extensive. I like the idea that the experience you get seeing my garment is completely different from the one you get handling it. The gothic element came from the styling I felt. We wanted the girls to look like otherworldly sentinels, but still modern and sleek.
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I have to confess that the models – with a white eye and those long nails, looking like a sassy villain – remind me of a video game character (I can’t remember her name though). And previously, you have said that your collections are “influenced by females that have impacted my past in both fiction and reality”. Could you tell us a bit about these two worlds of yours (fiction and reality)?
I loved how the models looked so much! I got to work with Anna Trevelyan, who I have the deepest respect and admiration for; she’s a genius! I grew up on an estate in Tottenham, and I have always been aware that, while being there, I was exposed to seeing women close to me and in the area disrespected and treated poorly by men. In the same breath, I saw them thrive, survive and provide. This struck a chord with me from a really young age! They just never gave up.
I always loved anime, comics and video games. Especially in seeing women win. As a designer, I have always gravitated towards women in these stories and games. I have always seemed to find parallels between characters in fiction and women I know in real life. So, designing-wise, I just wanted to make clothing for that woman who exists between both realities.
What are the main features and traits they have in common?
I think I have always looked to my mother as my first understanding of strength in a human being, regardless of gender. I owe a lot to her in educating me in what it means to be fearless. The figures I look up to really share a strong sense of self power and strength. I love that relentless need to succeed. I have seen these traits firsthand and in many stories. That really does link them all together for me. I have learnt a lot from these women, and I guess my brand is just a physical manifestation of how I see them and wish to celebrate them.
These women inspiring you are tough, resilient, powerful and confident. Is that what you want your clients to feel when wearing your clothes?
Absolutely! I love seeing women empowered and thriving. I want nothing more than a woman to be able to wear my garments and feel like they are the strongest versions of themselves. I only want to make clothing that asserts and amplifies the host’s capabilities and strength. Often, I think when designers saw the power in regard to women, they actually meant sex, and I want to focus on creating garments that reach beyond sexuality and just enhance presence and attitude. You don’t play with the Wesley Harriott woman and I want her to look as such.
The first thing I thought when I saw your designs was: modern femme fatale. Strong, seductive, daring and sensual clothes for a woman who embraces her sensuality, power and intelligence. How do you embody sexiness? What does ‘sexy’ mean to you?
I personally find self-assurance and confidence sexy. It’s not a visual thing, it’s a feeling. Any of my suits has been constructed to make the women stand tall and strong. You will see them and have no doubt in your mind that they are very secure in everything they are. Seeing someone with that level of self-assurance is so sexy to me. I believe that being sexy is a relationship between the garment and the host; they have to work together.
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Each season, you showcase your collections at London Fashion Week. However, you presented the Spring/Summer 2020 collection in the New York Fashion Week in collaboration with VFiles. Why the change? How do you feel this opportunity can help in the development of your brand?
I have wanted to do VFiles for many years! I did it because VFiles is an institution that has always championed designers from all walks of life, backgrounds and ethnicities. I knew I would be in perfect hands working with them, it was such a privilege. It was a platform that has put my brand in the face of so many more people! I am busier than ever and I have a lot of thanks to give to VFiles for this. I will always be a London designer and I will show in London again, I just couldn’t say ‘no’ to that opportunity. It was a dream come true.
Also, what would you say are the main differences between the American and British fashion markets? Do you feel like there’s a difference in styles and vibes during fashion weeks too?
I think in America, they are looking more for wearable garments than in London. London is way more about the creative and the showmanship, which I love and I find so important. But when I knew I was showing in New York, I wanted to make sure I was a little more commercially conscious as I feel the American market enjoys that more so.
Have you ever considered designing a menswear collection and bring all that sexiness and sensuality to the man of today?
I get asked this all the time and I am always curious why people want to know this. I think it’s something I could do one day, maybe, but I really, really, want to keep my focus on what I am trying to build with my womenswear for the foreseeable.
To end up, what do you have planned for Wesley Harriott in the future? What goals do you have settled?
To expand and sustain; I think that’s the goal for most new brands. Sustaining is the hardest part. I am working on opening my online store and I want to use that platform to launch some cool stuff.
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