The young designer teamed up with MAC’s Terry Barber to create the opulent looks
Harris Reed may only just be coming to the end of their final year at Central Saint Martins but the young designer has already made a name for themselves in the fashion industry.
Not only have their ethereal, gender-defying, high camp designs been worn by the likes of Harry Styles, Solange and Ezra Miller, they’ve also interned for Gucci, walked for the brand’s Cruise 2019 show and starred in the campaign for fragrance Mémoire d’une Odeur alongside Gucci favourite Styles. Now, as they graduate from CSM, they are presenting their final year collection from the comfort of their quarantine home in lieu of the traditional graduate show which, like everything else, has been cancelled amid the pandemic.
The collection, entitled Thriving In Our Outrage, is an homage to the fluid and flamboyant. Taking inspiration from Henry Paget, an eccentric aristocrat whose love of performance, opulence and non-conformity form the basis of the collection, as well as rock and roll bands such as the New York Dolls, Reed’s offerings blur the lines of gender and sexuality and thrive on outrage and drama.
When it came to the make-up, Reed worked closely with MAC’s director of makeup artistry Terry Barber to create a beauty concept that reflected and elevated the opulence and fluidity of the clothing. As with the rest of the collection, the two looked to Henry Paget for inspiration, building on the Marquess’s theatrical powdered face and rosy cheeks to create a “fucked-up fluid romantic opulent stable-kiss fantasy” look. Bella Thomas who is currently isolating with Reed and supported them throughout the creation of the collection photographed them in the looks.
We spoke to Reed and Barber about the collection alongside a series of exclusive polaroids.
How did you translate the concept of the collection into the beauty looks?
Harris Reed: The looks were quite dramatic and over the top. Terry Barber being a complete and utter beauty genius he was really able to transport and positively move what I was doing in a better direction. I was originally like ‘more gold!’ or even getting a bit more costume-y and Terry just so seamlessly brought it to a place where it was opulent, it was fluid and it was quite majestic.
The influence for the make-up really came from the starting points of people like Henry Paget and this idea of theatre make-up. This idea of rosy kissed lips that are slightly smeared because you're trying to hide a secret while you’re wiping your mouth and this gold on your eyes that’s gleaming and shimmering but in a way that’s a bit fucked up because you just woke up with it on from the night before. This idea of stage make-up but then you were just at an amazing party at Studio 54 and you woke up and you slapped it back on to go greet your day and this kind of alter ego fluid manifesto of yourself.
Terry Barber: I had worked with Harris a few times before and we’d already connected on things that we loved in beauty like a smacked-on cheek, a rubbed in lip and finger-painted eyeshadow. The idea just came from the story of a slightly surreal, aristocratic, faded glamour, rather than anything too technical. A suggestion rather than a major statement.
The collection took inspiration from figures such as Henry Paget and the New York Dolls. Was there anyone in particular you looked to for inspiration for the beauty?
Harris Reed: We were really just trying to find a good balance between Henry Paget and the New York Dolls. They went heavy with the stage make-up and they went quite crazy but it was that love of theatricality and this idea of men wearing make-up for the performance of it. I love the idea of everyday is the performance. The face, the skin, the lips were very Henry Paget but then the eyes were so New York Dolls to me because even though I wasn’t doing the black intense eyes they were doing, I was using that technique of smudging with my finger, getting in the creases, getting in the cracks really going for this fucked up glam rock vision.
Terry Barber: Harris has collected so many references along the way which not only relate to designing a collection, but also to the story of being gender fluid and how that might manifest itself in terms of styling. Many of those references lent themselves really well to creating a beauty which is at the same time romantic and subversive. We discussed foppish boys in 16th century Flemish paintings, Victorian am-dram, Fellini caricatures, Tilda Swinton in Orlando, and Bowie in his Diamond Dogs period. It was essentially about creating a character rather than a specific design.
How would you describe the final beauty look?
Harris Reed: Can I say fucked up? It’s a fluid romantic opulent, stable kiss fantasy. it's quite in your face, it's quite loud but then it's almost smeared. This kind of kiss-behind-the-stables, hidden Renaissance.
Terry Barber: To sum it up simply: Angelic but sordid.
The collection is all about self-expression. Harris, is make-up an important tool for your self-expression?
Harris Reed: What I love about make-up is it doesn't get more hands-on or personal then you putting something on yourself. That's why for me, I'm not really a make-up brush person. You should play, touch, smudge, feel and love with your fingers on your face.
Make-up is also incredible because, you know, when I was younger I didn't have the money to have the clothes. But I could go to the drugstore store and buy a great lipstick and that lipstick could be a blush, it could be an eyeshadow, it could be for your lips, it could be for your ears, you could put it in your hairline. Make-up is accessible and it's fun. I think people get scared of it but you have to just own it and use it as a weapon to be who you are. It's such a cheap and inexpensive way to get a message across. You can constantly use make-up to evolve and change.
One of the central questions of the collection is “does outrage breed the outrageous?” How do you think our current period of crisis and isolation is going to affect beauty trends and how we look?
Harris Reed: Great fucking question. I can't speak for everyone, but my friends who are artists, designers, students, musicians, singers, everything of the sort, everyone is just dying to be outside and express a new chapter of themselves. I have so many make-up looks I want to try. I've so many outfits that I want to put on. There's going to be a resurgence of individuality, which is what I'm hoping and that's what I'm trying to get through with my collection and the make-up in the collection.
People sitting at home coming to terms with themselves, maybe their sexuality maybe not even their sexuality but just what makes them feel cute. Maybe they want to wear certain colours, maybe they want to wear certain things, but just feeling amazing, embracing that and bringing it out into the world post-pandemic. So I'm really hoping that this bleak time where we're all self isolating, will breed this new idea of individuality and that’s what I’m excited to see.
Terry Barber: All of our style culture, probably since the 1950s has been built on the disillusionment of young people with their socio-economic circumstances, resulting in the subcultural tribes which still influence fashion to this day. Bleak times seem to always stimulate the desire to smash through establishments. A generation will start to question the idea of being fed their ideas through celebrity culture, brand-dictated fashion and attention hungry influencers and turn again to the idea of self-experimentation and DIY style. With so much technology at their fingertips it promises to be a forceful revolution. My hope is that it's the end of narcissism and the rebirth of hedonism.