Harris Reed had less than one week to make an outfit for Harry Styles’s Vogue cover story. Panic? There was no time! “We made it an under six days, so I literally didn’t sleep. I’ve never made something faster in my entire life,” Reed says over a video call in a rapid-fire clip. “My fingers were blood-red because I was feeding through all of the steel boning and hand-tacking the piece. We made it down to the last second. I remember putting the look in the van and thinking, ‘OK, here we go.’”
And here it is! The final product is worn by Styles in Vogue’s December issue in an image by photographer Tyler Mitchell and fashion editor Camilla Nickerson. The tailoring-meets-flou creation gets a special call out in the profile written by Hamish Bowles as “a broad-shouldered Smoking jacket with high-waisted, wide-leg pants that have become a Styles signature… worn with a hoopskirt draped in festoons of hot-pink satin that somehow suggests Deborah Kerr asking Yul Brynner’s King of Siam, Shall we dance?’”
Romantic, dramatic, and exuberant would be some other good ways to describe Reed’s sharply cut suit and duchesse satin ball skirt. “When I was creating this look, I wanted to be a bit tongue-in-cheek and have a bit of the English humor, like just have half an extraordinary ball gown and then half of a very kind of Savile Row suit with a ’70s shoulder,” the designer explains. “It was really about Harry as a performer. When he goes on stage, he’s rocking out and that’s why I love working for him. He completely embodies who he is: He’s shaking, he’s spitting water, he’s running around. I wanted to show that element of motion and drama, but in a still image.”
There is another word the designer uses to describe his mission not just with Styles but with his designs in general: fluid. “I don’t just make clothes. If you want pretty clothes, you need to go to someone else,” he says poignantly. “I fight for the beauty of fluidity. I fight for a more opulent and accepting world. That is really important to me.”
Growing up in Arizona, Reed says they were used to having labels applied to them “before I could even label myself.” Their mother, an ex-model turned candle maker, and their father, a filmmaker, gave them entrée into a world of creativity. By age nine, they was on the playground in painted nails. Now, at 24, they have waist length hair the color of a Harvest Moon and dress with the same irreverent expressiveness as their best client and friend Harry Styles. On our video chat they wear an unbuttoned shocking pink, silky shirt and fistfuls of rings, including the same Gucci set of large-scale initials worn by Styles. For Reed, fashion is a tool for self-realization, and old school ideologies and rules just don’t apply. “I went through my own self discovery by dressing up and really trying on every hat in a hatbox,” he pauses, “which is funny because now I am famous for my hats.”
Reed’s story first intersects with Styles’s in 2017. Reed had moved to London to start their studies at Central Saint Martins and was working on their first project for the university: to create an entirely white garment. Reed’s was “a huge white hat, corseted bustier top, and white flare trousers.” They posted it on Instagram. Hours later they had a message from Harry Lambert, the stylist, asking to borrow the look for a shoot in Amsterdam. Days later, Lambert asked Reed to sketch some designs for a client—but he wouldn’t say who. “[Lambert] gave me some loose references. We were talking about Bowie, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix… I had an inkling it was for Harry Styles because I knew that Harry was Harry’s client, but I was not fully sure.”
Reed created an inspiration book and final sketches that met the brief and showed them to the stylist. “I got a call a couple hours later being saying, ‘OK, he wants to meet you.’” The he in question was indeed Styles. “I was in a tutorial and my teacher was ripping me to pieces. I remember she was like, ‘You’re never going to be a good designer. You’re never going to even be an assistant. You’re not going to go anywhere!’ I was like, ‘Well, I really gotta go, I have a meeting with Harry Styles at the Apollo Theatre.’” Reed arrived wearing a fake fur jacket, no shirt, silver flares, and platform boots. “It was kind of like dynamite,” is how they describes the moment of meeting Styles and his team of creatives.
Since then, it’s been go, go, go. The three Hars—Styles, Lambert, and Reed—collaborated on lamé ruffled blouses and flares for the rest of Styles’s 2017 and 2018 world tour. Months later, Reed appeared in an advertisement for Gucci’s Memoir d’une Odeur fragrance campaign beside Styles. They have already released a debut line of candles, made in collaboration with their mother, and earlier this week their platform boots launched exclusively launch on MatchesFashion.com. Though they only just graduated from Central Saint Martins, Reed has experienced the kind of success and press coverage established designers wish for.
“Fashion can be so cutthroat at times,” they say. “I always feel like everyone needs a guardian angel and Harry and Harry are that to me, my guardian angels. I don’t want to be too negative about it, but this industry can really build you up to rip you down, but with both of them, you know, they both check in on me. Their support makes [my career] possible, honestly, especially right now in this climate.”
What comes after a Vogue credit? A capsule collection of blouses made from leftover materials is in the works. “Some actually feature the fabric from the dress that I made for Harry because as a sustainable young designer, I never let anything go to waste,” Reed says. “I’ve completely used any remnants from that piece, as well as fabric from other projects with him as well as other clients,” The more distant future holds a new release of hats in a “more wearable” size and their first-ever fashion week show in February, COVID restrictions permitting. “Going forward, it’s about this idea of collaboration, collaboration, collaboration for me, and working with individuals and artists on bespoke projects.” Rest assured that Reed’s guardian angels will be supporting them all the way.
Watch Harry Styles Sing an Acoustic Rendition of “Cherry” in Vogue’s Cover Video: