LONDON — Harris Reed is setting out to educate the masses with his debut book “Fluid: A Fashion Revolution” (Abrams).
“I’ve done a lot of interviews since I started [working in fashion] and people would always ask, ‘what is fluidity? I don’t really get it. What’s this about? How does this contextualize in the space of history? Who would be people that you think did a good job of exploring gender expression?’” says the British American designer from his London design studio.
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In the tome, small in size, but mighty in weight, is a compilation of Reed’s personal and working life in words and images, as well as paintings from the National Gallery and shots of Freddie Mercury performing on stage in flamboyant skin-tight jumpsuits.
The 12 chapters explore Reed’s life in chronological order, starting with what fluidity means with anecdotes from the designer’s childhood, where he would wear blond wigs with his mother’s high heels; his design process and the hardship of working from a hotel room during the pandemic; the historical influences on fashion; working with Harry Styles on the dress he wore in “American Vogue,” and how the conversation of fluidity is being pushed forward via his creations for the likes of Beyoncé and Selena Gomez.
The designer says the book is about weaving aspirational imagery with a little bit of story and contextualization on the subject of fluidity.
“I don’t want to forever be one of the few designers that is getting all this press and attention for being fluid and queer — that should just be normal and then we can talk about whether people hate or love my clothes, but it’s in this space that the gender aspect is so important,” says Reed, who has been one of the cheerleaders of the fluid movement along with his friend Alessandro Michele, the former Gucci creative director.
When the designer started researching the topic of fluidity in books, there was nothing to be found, which is how he decided on the simple title of the book.
“The most important thing here is that it’s my fluidity, I don’t represent all of fluidity on the incredibly complex and varied scale that it is,” says Reed, who aspired for the book to be a “slightly Gen-Z coffee table book where it’s not as huge and massive [in size].”
The designer sees the book as a touching point for what he’s achieved so far in his lucrative career and plans on perhaps releasing a few more in the next decade and the decade after, taking inspiration from British singer Adele’s way of creating albums where she leaves a gap between them.
Before designing clothes, Reed forayed into modeling where his identity was mistaken for androgyny on numerous occasions.
“I remember being on shoots and being handed a tube of lipstick, a miniskirt and some heels as if to say I’m now androgynous. There was no conversation around my gender expression, how I saw myself or how I felt comfortable,” says Reed, who for three years was going by the pronouns of they/them because he didn’t feel he “fit into being a man or woman.”
“I felt really comfortable in this space that I don’t think that gender should be labeled — that’s what pushed me into almost accidentally making all my clothes for nights out,” he adds.
The designer feels that fluidity is a genderless space that shouldn’t depend on “things being male or female, but what makes you feel the most authentic,” especially in the current political climate where a lot of queer spaces are under attack in the U.K. with the growing numbers of hate crimes.
Reed still experiences horrific slurs when he logs onto Instagram with comments asking “why is he dressed like a f—ing girl?”
“The more important aspect is that when people from the mainstream see my work, it opens the conversation up into what I do and hopefully it fills people with a bit more knowledge about the queer space,” he says.
Even though the book is a celebration of queer joy, the designer isn’t afraid to tap into his traumas and the benefits of therapy.
In the midst of promoting his book, the 27-year-old will also be presenting two collections during the fashion week circuit, one in London and the other in Paris.
His collection for his eponymous label will take place on Feb. 15, off schedule and a day before London Fashion Week kicks off. He described the upcoming show as “a night out.” His third Nina Ricci collection will coincide with Paris Fashion Week.
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