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Harris Reed’s ‘Fluid’ fashion vision, from Harry Styles to the guillotine

It’s unusual for a 27-year-old to release a career retrospective coffee table book. But there are many unusual things about the London-based designer Harris Reed, a 6-foot-4 wunderkind of the fashion industry at the vanguard of gender-expansive fashion design.

Yesterday, Reed released “Fluid,” a book tracing the beginning of his already remarkable career in fashion.

“It felt kind of like — and this is so cringe to say — a Gen Z coffee table book,” Reed said during a break from a photo shoot in London for his namesake line.

“It’s not as large as the Tom Ford book,” Reed continued, speaking at a clip that sounds like the 1.5x function was selected on a phone. “I also don’t want to be as pretentious to think that at 27 I’m good enough to even be next to someone like the incredible Tom Ford.”

The book’s title refers to Reed’s gender-fluid designs, which can incorporate men’s tailoring, dramatic women’s silhouettes and flouncy androgynous details, sometimes in the same look.

Reed has had the kind of career that is best described as “impossible” — dressing a major pop star before he even graduated art school. His is the type of enviable story that sets unrealistic standards for generations of future aspiring designers.

Reed grew up in Arizona and Los Angeles. His mother founded a candle company in 1994. His father won an Oscar in 2014 for a short-form documentary film. Harris remembers them as being exceptionally supportive of his gender explorations from a young age.

After high school, Reed attended Central Saint Martins college in London. During his first year, he was tapped to model for a Gucci perfume ad, where he was photographed alongside the saxophonist and Gucci muse Zumi Rosow and Harry Styles.

Styles ended up being Reed’s first design client. Reed went on to make many looks for Styles, including the dramatic cage dress the singer wore for a Vogue cover story in 2020. It was the first time a man had appeared on the cover of the magazine solo and a huge coup for the then-23-year-old designer.

Reed’s senior-year collection, crafted during covid lockdowns in his dorm room, was an Instagram sensation, attracting attention from mainstream fashion media outlets such as Women’s Wear Daily.

After he graduated, the Standard Hotel in London gifted Reed a room at no charge. He used the hotel as his home and studio.

“I lied to the owner and said that I got offered a residency at another hotel, and she agreed to give me six months,” he said.

Reed has ADHD and describes himself as “severely dyslexic,” which presented challenges to writing a book. “Everyone kept joking it was going to be the longest run-on sentence of my life because I speak in one run-on sentence,” he said.

He created the book in collaboration with Josh Young, an author who had been friends with Harris’s parents since before his birth. Much of the book was culled from voice memos recorded by Reed on the Eurostar train while commuting between Paris and London.

Translating Reed’s words to the page was a challenge for Young. “It’s hard to keep up with his thoughts because they do come fast and furious, but they do somehow all come together,” Young said.

“Fluid” is a straightforward, chronological account of his career, the historical inspirations for his designs and the techniques he deployed.

Reed recounts how he and a friend had to sleep on the floor of his dorm room so a massive hat could sit unmolested on his bed.

Giant headpieces are one of Reed’s signatures. Beyoncé reed-beyonce”>appeared on the cover of British Vogue in 2022 wearing a black feathered halo he designed. Iman wore a similar feathered headpiece at the Met Gala in 2021.

Reed himself wore a (very) wide-brimmed black hat on the cover of “Fluid,” along with a mermaid-cut skirt and a bandeau top resembling two fists clutching a ring.

His approach may be gender-expansive, but his vision isn’t exactly inclusive. “Fluid” is full of images of his muses and models, almost all of whom are lithe, lanky and long-limbed.

Reed has wrestled with questions of body diversity and representation in his work. He recounted collapsing into tears after a modeling gig in which he watched his body get Photoshopped into an ever-thinner version of itself.

“My whole dream was to not be the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue or the Victoria’s Secret catalogue,” he said. “Have I just built another archetype of this thing called fluidity that is completely unattainable?”

After years of therapy and support from his friends, he now feels at peace with unabashedly pursuing his artistic vision.

“This idea of my fluidity, the key word is it’s mine,” Reed said. “It’s not me representing everyone.”

Last year, Reed was named creative director for the French fashion label Nina Ricci. At the time, he was also being courted by two other fashion brands, whose names he can’t disclose because of NDAs.

“I chose Nina because it was basically two other very straight CEOs, man-spreading in the meeting and telling me what to do,” he recalled. “Nina Ricci was a queer CEO gay guy who was genuinely, like, ‘What do you want to do?’”

A job like his at Nina Ricci is usually the endgame for a fashion designer. He is unusually young and inexperienced for such a position, and he admits that there was a period of adjustment at the company after his appointment.

“It was a whole, ‘Who is this long-haired giraffe person that’s our new boss?’” he said.

But Reed is confident that he can make it work. “I’ve always been the one to put my heel down in everything,” he said. “I’m not here because I took the easy way out or compromised my beliefs.”

Unshakable confidence is a common thread among the muses pictured in “Fluid.” Images of Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Lil Nas X are scattered among more obscure historical figures such as Henry Paget, an eccentric 19th-century marquess, and Jacques Cazotte, an 18th-century French writer sent to the guillotine.

Another name that appeared several times? Julia Roberts. Reed seemed as surprised as I was when I asked why she popped up in his book.

“It probably comes from being that little gay kid who would watch ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Pretty Woman’ back-to-back with my mom,” he said, triggering a tangent about his love for Nancy Meyers movies.

I wasn’t expecting a Nancy Meyers reference. But that could explain the big floppy hat.

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