Tiny Dancer. Harris Reed SS23

There’s no need to explain why this London Fashion Week won’t feel like a usual affair. The somber events of fate – the death of Queen Elizabeth – couldn’t help but have overtaken Harris Reed’s chosen position as one of the first designers to show in London. The plan was to stage his joyfully glam, celebratory queer show as a move-on, literally, from the high-drama static tableaux he’s worked on for a couple of seasons. It was a performance which was to have acted as a kind of ta-da curtain-raiser for all the fizzy anticipation people had been feeling about the first full comeback of shows since the end of the pandemic. Conscious of the very different load of responsibility that his massively sculptural looks were now going to carry on their scaffolded shoulders, Reed spoke up. During the days when there were heart-searching discussions about whether the week should be canceled altogether, he posted a respectfully-toned text pleading for the survival of the fragile ecosystem of young brands – his friends – for whom canceling could’ve spelled financial ruin, with no hope of recouping insurance on money already spent. “It has been a challenging two years… in these two years I have been absolutely blown away by how incredibly supportive the fashion community is in London. When put through massive challenges, designers, models, movement directors, casting directors, nail artists, [and] writers have supported one another, lifting one another up,” he wrote. “London is a place where community, creativity, and cultivation should always be in the forefront of what we support and nurture.” And he tagged all the names of the designers and friends he is “honored to be showing alongside.”

It was a generous, much-shared gesture, illustrating something of how Reed’s popularity as an optimistic personality-about-fashion has been a contributory factor in the massive amounts of attention, celebrity-wears, and magazine covers he’s managed to magnetize at an almost absurdly early stage of his career. So: it was on with the Debutante Ball-themed show, the hysteria generated by the appearance of Adam Lambert singing “Nessun Dorma” only slightly dialed back, given the circumstances. Earlier, in his studio, Reed related how his inspiration was a cross between Victorian crinolines and the great glittering days of drag clubs in New York. He has a bold sense of unputdownable optimism, which he attributes to his American upbringing. It shows in the scale of his ambition to make clothes which aspire to haute couture, or at least, the look of it. Fitting clothes to the body to be inspected in movement and in the round presented a technical hurdle, not quite a leap, if one was being Paris-picky. But then again, Reed’s can-do, let’s-pull-together American cheerleading has been a great asset to have around London in a time of crisis.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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