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Harris Reed
Nr Magazine, Vol. 7

In the hours prior to my phone call with young designer Harris Reed, I am glued to his Instagram story, virtually following his every move as he frantically tries to deliver a parcel on a tight schedule – I’m on tenterhooks to know the outcome. Later that day, he tells me that the aforementioned drama centred around a parcel that he had sent to New York, but had turned up in India – and so, having retrieved it, was trying to get it to New York, for real this time, in order to meet a deadline. Recovering from the ordeal, Reed speaks from the library where he is now spending his Saturday afternoon researching. It’s easy to forget that Reed, now a Second Year Fashion BA student at Central Saint Martins, is exactly that. After his designs for The White Show (an annual event for First Year Fashion BA students at CSM) sent the fashion world into a craze back in 2016, the young designer has been making wave after wave. Indeed, a few weeks after we talk, Reed posts shots from Interview Magazine to his Instagram page – for which he’s dressed the cover star, Ezra Miller. The prospect of juggling university with dressing the most glamourous stars of the day could seem daunting, so I am intrigued to find out more about the driving force behind Harris Reed.  

NR MAGAZINE: Where does the Victorian-esque feel in your designs come from?  

HARRIS REED: I’ve always loved storytelling. Growing up, I moved over 30 times – living all over America and Europe. Moving around so much as a child and being a ‘nomad’ of sorts, I made up stories to myself – and my designs embody this kind of ‘Victorian bedtime story’. I think that the Victorian period captivates that for me, through the sleeves, the embellishments, the ruffles, and the drama.

NR: As an extension of the body, can clothes express the truest form of ourselves?

HR: Clothes are like icing on a cake. As long as the substance’s there, and as long as you are expressing who you are and what you stand for, clothes are the icing that complete that vision. We live in a time and place where everything happens so virtually and quickly; that icing is the first impression. So clothing is detrimental in this sense. Of course, it won’t always work out like that; people won’t always understand.

NR: Do you think social media influences the way that people put together an outfit, and curate how they come across?

HR: 100%. Being in fashion, at CSM, and in London, I’m very aware of the effect that technology (Facebook, Instagram, dating apps) has. People make up their mind within microseconds about who you are, what you stand for, what you believe in, what you represent – and how you fit into those categories. So, for me it’s all about not being put into any category, it’s about throwing people off. I want people to have to actually sit and think. I don’t want people to swipe left, swipe right – instead, I want people to really engage: “how do I feel about this”, “let me think about this”, “let me process this”.

NR: I think that’s very true; you really have to capture someone’s attention on Instagram, for example, and maintain it. But, with your Instagram, the way it comes across is quite ‘organic’ in its feel.  

HR: My Instagram stories can go anything from me getting an outfit ready for Harry Styles, to me crying at the UPS place because they lost a package. Nobody wants to see a perfect person they can understand; I think people love, and are intrigued by not quite understanding, and by having a narrative. I think my whole life has a narrative – whether it’s that fictional one with the Victorian character, or whether it’s just myself. Even with the internet, we still care about a good story.

NR: I think that’s a nice thing to bring up, because if you can’t embrace the mistakes and airbrush them out, it’s not interesting.

HR: It’s great to see someone move forward, seeing all the hard work that goes into shooting, making the clothes, etc., but you also want to see the “oh my god he lost his wallet”, “oh my god he got hit by a taxi cab on the way to drop things off”. People want that, they want that genuineness … mixed in with Victoriana fabulousness.

NR: Do you think clothes, in terms of designing them, looking at them, wearing them, can give people an escape from the monotony of the everyday?

HR: Now I’m in London and with a group of people who accept me completely for myself, clothing has become a day to day “this is who I am, this is how I present myself”. But, growing up and moving around a lot, being in different environments that maybe I didn’t feel safe because of my sexuality or how I present myself, I think clothing was 100% my salvation. It was my armour, and I think clothing is essential absolutely detrimental to a person. If you walk into the streets of the day, clothing is literally that battle armour. Clothing can make you feel incredibly beautiful, but it’s also about feeling protected emotionally and physically by it.

NR: As well as being armour and protection, would you say that clothes can be one of the most obvious and best ways to give people a platform, as a means of challenging the status quo?

HR: I think 100%. Whatever you’re putting on, I’d like to think it’s 100% representation of what you’re feeling, or who you are. So, for sure, it’s the easiest way to change the status quo, or make the biggest impression the fastest. Going back to what we said about social media and people processing very quickly, if you put something on, someone’s going to see it and immediately try to break down what that means.

NR: So, if you were to take the notion of freedom, how would it manifest itself in an item of clothing, or an entire outfit?

HR: Oh my god, I mean, it would have to be something that wholeheartedly embodies who I am. I think that would be something that’s very vulnerable; it would very much wear its heart on the sleeve. That could be a completely sheer outfit, or the opposite – where I was bulked up in leather and scarves and wool, like armour going into war. It could go one of two ways.

NR: Being vulnerable is an interesting response – the idea of freedom and vulnerability isn’t something I would have necessarily thought of.

HR: Freedom would be absolute vulnerability, but in the sense that you’re owning it. So it would be completely sheer and, by embracing that and feeling free, that would be freedom.

NR: So if in 100 years’ time, there’s a young designer and they’re designing an outfit based on the story of Harris Reed, how do you envisage this outfit?

HR: Oh my god, it better be fucking fantastic. The one thing it would have to have is confidence, and some kind of message. It would have to have amazing sleeves, or an amazing gathering but, I am still very young in my career and my style is definitely evolving. What I notice that people gravitate to in my designs is the honest, and the sense of purpose. If someone was to design something based on me as a designer, it would have to really stand out, make people think, and change the status quo – whatever that may be in 100 years’ time.

NR: Is having a message as important as how your designs look?

HR: I absolutely love fashion, but I couldn’t do it if there wasn’t a strong message there. There’s way too much going on the world, especially for the LGBTQIA community, that I couldn’t just make pretty dresses and do nothing. I think it definitely, definitely, definitely comes down to have a clear message. Right now, for me, that’s about redefining the way we look at gender and fluidity. That’s something I hope my stuff will do.

NR: There’s a tendency for people to find ways to label fashion as vacuous; having meaning and a positive message, gives fashion this plausible purpose.

HR: I think about showing that fashion is more than filing stores up. I don’t believe that to have a successful brand, you have to make 10,000 pieces; I want to make specific pieces that have meaning. But to a lot of people, fashion is Topshop, H&M, Valentino, or whatever. So I want to show that it’s not just about making clothes; it can be about changing the way we look, the way we make garments, and so on.

NR: What’s on the agenda for the future?

HR: The funny thing is, going back to social media, there’s been a number of amazing opportunities that I’ve had because of Instagram. I don’t want to launch a sellable brand at the minute, but continue to do collaborations with amazing people. I want to try things, make mistakes; I’m doing a lot of millinery at the minute.

NR: How was dressing Solange?

HR: Oh my god, she’s amazing. Earlier in the year, she requested stuff for cover stories for Teen Vogue and Another Magazine shot by Peter Lindbergh. The stuff didn’t make the cut unfortunately, but I’m working with her again on a future project, so fingers crossed! That’s the thing about the love/hate relationship with technology; it wouldn’t have been possible if she hadn’t screenshotted my stuff. The second I see Solange in my clothes, besides cry, I know I’ll feel that she is the perfect example someone who’s fighting for gay rights, for changing the status quo, for being a strong fucking independent woman.

NR: As soon as I heard about you working with Solange, I could immediately see her wearing your designs –to me, she completely embodies the message and purpose that you instil in your work.

HR: Oh completely. Going back to your question about the future, it’s exactly that: finding people who have an amazing following, are extremely respected, who share my ethic and what I stand for. I also want to dress someone for the MET Gala. That’s what I wanna do – for Solange. I wanna dress Solange at the MET Gala. You can put that in bold: Solange, call me up – MET Gala 2018! Make it happen.

March 2018

Richard Malone
NR Magazine, Vol. 6

There’s more than what meets the eye in the bold, sculptural shapes of Irish designer, Richard Malone. Having studied at Central Saint Martins, working back in Ireland to pay the tuition fees, he brings a refreshing, and long overdue perspective to the fashion industry. Whilst the kaleidoscopic prints and textures look amazing, practicality is high up on Malone’s agenda. Since graduating in 2014, the designer has been making waves, having been selected in 2015 and 2016 for the Fashion East scheme – whilst he was announced as one of the BFC’s prestigious “NEWGEN” designers earlier this year.

NR MAGAZINE: Can you talk through the inspiration of public transport in the shapes and patterns of the AW17 Collection?

RICHARD MALONE: I’m always documenting people through photography and drawing, especially travelling back and forth between Wexford, where I’m from in Ireland, and London. I take the ferry across, and there’s just loads and loads of different patterns around. I started drawing and developing these patterns, elevating them in a way, but also keeping the repetition – so like, taking a tacky floor repeat pattern and completely changing the colours or the scale. I think as a design they’re really overlooked, so it was really nice to do something super modern with them.

NR: You had dancers perform in your designs at the AW17 show; if they can dance wearing what you create, what else can the Richard Malone-wearing woman do?

RM: A lot of the sculptural silhouettes that I create are super soft or super fluid, so they’re actually really easy to take care of and manoeuvre in. So I did it to prove that you can dance - or work - in them. I really relate to the women I have as private clients because there’s so much shit that they have to do in the day. You know, it’s not about clothes being made for just standing there, looking pretty, or for the sake of Instagram. These are clothes to actually be worn, and so, as much as you can describe the shapes as ‘avant-garde’, they’re also completely functional. at, for me, is the challenge of design.

NR: How do you marry the sculptural elements of your de- signs with their durability? As a designer, how do you make that work?

RM: It’s a case of trial and error you know, it’s about getting to a point where the designs can be made and work on very different body types. They’re made very separately from the body, they’re these very at, abstract shapes – and then, I try them on, other people try them on, making sure that you can move your arms, etc.

NR: Looking at your work, there’s this strong sense of craftsmanship in your designs – can that be attributed to your time at CSM, and work since, - or is this something that predates your “formal education”?

RM: I think it definitely does: I grew up working on building sites so if I ever wanted to make anything creative, I’d use industrial masonry paint, or make things from Polyfilla because that’s all that was available to me. So I suppose, for me, I’ve always been craft-driven in a sculptural and abstract way. Also, being surrounded by so many uniforms and codes of dress in a working class environment is definitely going to influence how you see function. For me, too, I never did a Foundation or anything before studying; I just came from doing this sculpture-y stuff.

NR: It’s an unusual approach to a lot of people coming into design, but the quilted elements in your designs connote a sense of tradition – is that deliberately so?

RM: Yeah definitely. It’s quite a basic, it’s something that everyone will be familiar with, and it was in my design vocabulary. I’m familiar with quilting from growing up, and being in a caravan or my grandmother’s front room. I think there’s a squishy homely feel to some of them.

NR: I can imagine the quilted elements really work with the importance of practicality in your designs, on a comfort level.

RM: Easy as well! It’s really tightly woven double jacquard cotton that’s all hand-woven and finished. I think it’s nice to wear something that you know someone has really worked on it – which is something that can be quite rare in the fashion industry.

NR: You can really tell when you’re wearing something that you know someone has genuinely put a lot of effort into creating it.

RM: Yeah, and building relationships with buyers, or even those who are just interested in my work – so that they can see, straight off, that this is something that really is crafted. If people are going to have these clothes and wear them for a long time, that’s a really great thing – it’s the biggest compliment you can get.

NR: I guess, then, is that the point of being a designer?

RM: I mean, yeah; I think that it is. There’s a lot of stuff out there that is made for the sake of the image, and that’s never been my interest. I don’t like putting out images of the collection, and I absolutely hate runway images because it really flattens the designs, especially if you do something that’s sculptural. Obviously, it’s got to look nice on a runway image, but for me it’s much more about the three-dimensional.

NR: What do your designs aim to say in terms of confronting the issue of class?

RM: It’s about merging things, and showing that the clothes that I grew up with are as valid as couture and high end clothes. I think the frustration for me is when, say, people deal with working class imagery, or chav culture – but they’re not from that culture. They’re just looking at it as an image. It’s quite a sensitive subject I think, especially when you’re just trivialising what other people do without acknowledging what those clothes might actually mean for a whole community of people.

NR: One thing that can be quite problematic, I think, is when uniforms are virtually ripped off, but with a huge price tag added.

RM: I know; I guess the customers are quite detached from it anyway. To them, there’s no concept of what that might actually mean or might actually be. There’s also never any challenge to the designer to elevate that in any way. It’s essentially just appropriating from a less well-off group of people. It’s just bizarre, literally bizarre. I guess you can polish anything and someone will want to buy it, if it’s heavily branded.

NR: So with your designs then, how can they tackle the issue of the appropriation of the working classes that exists in fashion?

RM: I’m very vocal about my feelings towards the industry, and that I have to defy it – I couldn’t have gone to university if I’d gone one year later because of the price of the fees. There’s this disconnect. I’ve not just gone to university, I’ve grown up around grafters and craftspeople and you know, it’s very much: you get up, you go to work, you learn your craft really well and that’s the way of working that I was used to. You put on your uniform. That’s very personal to me, but also very new to other people - they’re getting a different perspective of things, I hope.

NR: Is there a danger that the inspiration for your collections (i.e. public transport for AW17 / mother’s Argos uniform for SS16, and your surroundings growing up more generally) will be interpreted as ephemeral even if that was the case, would it matter?

RM: Yeah I guess there’s that, but I think a lot of the time there are journalists who read things on one level – and interpret it as “this means this”, whereas there’s a lot more that goes into it. That Argos uniform, for example, that’s more about the actual differences between the male and female uniform. What I found absolutely ridiculous and what really frustrated me was what’s acceptable for men and what’s acceptable for women. And I guess, you almost don’t want to put out a press release sometimes because people will read too much into something.

NR: I can imagine it’s a difficult thing to put together, because there’ll be one small thing that gets blown out of proportion.  

RM: Yeah, and I want to be transparent with the way that I work, but sometimes it can get misconstrued. I wouldn’t say I come up with things necessarily from a “from my childhood” experiences approach, it’s more that I was learning different codes, and ideas – and they’re still relevant now. These aren’t historical experiences I’m using, they’re codes and ideas that are still there.

NR: Would it go too far to suggest that, by incorporating the everyday aspects of working class culture in your designs, there’s a political sentiment in what you’re doing?

RM: Yeah, I think that that’s kind of right; like seeing it in a context. If you’re doing something that’s a bit abstract or creative, and if you have a voice – by doing that, it’s rebellious. It’s not just about putting slogans on something or trying to do something really obvious… it’s about being creative in the industry, and being bold about what you do is enough. I think that that’s the thing that lasts.

NR: Now that you’re working in London, would you say the influence on your work has shifted?

RM: I guess you inevitably respond to things you’re surrounded by - you don’t realise you’re doing it. I feel quite lucky, in a way, that I get to go back to Wexford and have a conversation with someone who’s completely outside of it all because their views are fresh, whether it’s good or not. I don’t think opinions are valid only from people who know about the industry – it’s really nice to get an opinion on your work. That’s very human.

NR: It’s so easy, in anything that you do you can get so absorbed in one thing, sometimes you need a fresh perspective to clarify things.

RM: Exactly, especially sometimes in London, where it’s such a bubble. I think in London, you have to remember that you have to keep your identity and not lose that -  or become just a ‘London designer’ because that wouldn’t be right either.

August 2017





Disobedient Bodies @ The Hepworth, Wakefield
NR Magazine, Vol. 4

The Hepworth Wakefield casts a superb presence over the River Calder at the best of times. Combining David Chipperfield’s brutalist architecture with the namesake of the city’s most famous resident, Barbara Hepworth, the gallery has been a focal point of culture in the north since its opening in 2011. In an act that is certain to shake up the London-centricity of the British art world, The Hepworth Wakefield has set out a series of collaborations with influential individuals across the creative disciplines – aiming at celebrating Wakefield’s collection of modern British art. The first of these curators is none other than key British designer, Jonathan Anderson – a fan of the gallery, and an avid collector of modern art. The outcome of his collaboration with The Hepworth Wakefield is ‘Disobedient Bodies’ – an exhibition combining art and fashion over the last century, in an exploration of the representation of the human form.

On a nondescript, moody Friday evening, the harsh structure of The Hepworth Wakefield is especially striking against the waves of meandering crowds coming and going for the exhibition’s opening party. In collaboration with 6a architects, ‘Disobedient Bodies’ sees some of the large open rooms of the gallery converted into a series of intimate spaces, in which archive JW Anderson fabric hangs to form temporary walls. This enclosed tactility complements Anderson’s vision for creating a “cocktail party” atmosphere between the pieces on display.

Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure (1936) occupies the entrance of Disobedient Bodies. Though a relatively small structure, it’s an appropriately powerful opening piece for an exhibition aimed at celebrating art in Wakefield (being part of the Wakefield Permanent Art Collection) and exploring the human form. Given Moore and Hepworth’s association with Yorkshire, and their shared interest in abstract figurative forms, Anderson hits a prescient cord with Disobedient Bodies. Of course, neither Moore nor Hepworth are by any means undervalued British artists – but, by using their early works as a catalyst for the exhibition, Anderson sets up a suitable space for a serious contemplation of the serious value of modern art and fashion.

Take a left into the next room, and there, manipulated to mimic the form of Reclining Figure, is Jean Paul Gaultier’s Cone Dress (1983/84). It’s perhaps the show’s most obvious example of a correspondence between sculpture and fashion. The jersey dress takes the form of a figurative sculpture in its own right. Whilst the conical bra shape is easily recognisable as being the mastermind of Gaultier, the way in which it is presented by Anderson makes it equally possible the creation of a sculptor taking heed from the distorted human body as seen in Moore. This ambiguity is deliberately done - none of the pieces in the exhibition are explicitly labelled; instead, Anderson opts for subtle numbering in reference to the catalogue.

Of course, there are pieces that are obviously synonymous with their creator. Just as the conical dress is clearly Gaultier, it takes no expert to identify exhibit 7 as a Christian Dior dress (Patchouli ensemble, A/W 1952 Haute Couture collection), given its iconic New Look silhouette; or exhibit 41 as an Alberto Giacometti sculpture (Standing Woman, 1958-59), recognisable by its elongated, notched bronze figure. Equally, there are certain exhibits that, when it becomes clear to viewers whom they are by, generate a lot of attention; pieces 80-83, all from the Comme des Garçons ‘2D’ collection A/W 2012, are examples of such. Disobedient Bodies, as an exhibition in general, is incredibly photographable and, daresay, Instagrammable – but it is the 2D collection that proves especially so.

Nonetheless, Disobedient Bodies does succeed at isolating the work from its source – this is done especially touchingly by long-time JW Anderson collaborator, the photographer Jamie Hawkesworth. Hidden behind a jungle of JW Anderson jumpers hanging from the ceiling (an interactive installation that Anderson hopes viewers of all ages will physically engage with), Hawkesworth’s series ‘Wakefield Kids’ (2017) is a particular strength of the exhibition. The series features local schoolchildren wearing some of the items of clothing on display in Disobedient Bodies. This isn’t the first time Hawkesworth has photographed children in designer gear, but here it works as a way of emphasising the materiality of the exhibits. Wakefield Kids feels raw. In one photograph, three children wear vests by Elisabeth de Senneville (exhibits 68-70, ‘Nomade vest’, S/S 1977 womenswear collection). They’re captured in their youthful innocence and awkwardness; another photograph of a girl stood wearing a piece from the Comme des Garçons 2D collection – feels equally as awkward and authentic.

The approach Anderson takes in curating Disobedient Bodies is extremely rich and clearly thoroughly thought out; the show has been long in the running and that much is clear. The meticulous attention to detail and effective grouping of displays manages to convey the point it would seem Anderson is eager to get across. Works 6-23 are grouped under the theme “Disrupting classicism. The refined silhouette”; alongside the aforementioned Dior dress, two Hepworth sculptures of a very different ilk are incorporated here. Whilst the influence of the classical figurative form is clear in Torso (1929), the stylistic progression of Hepworth’s career is made glaringly obvious in comparison to Totem (1960-62). Here, the hollow form and smooth, fluid surfaces that Hepworth is best known for cuts a strikingly different silhouette. 

Veering past Totem into a small alcove-like space, Nick Knight and Alexander McQueen’s collaborative short film ‘Transformer: The Bridegroom Stripped Bare’ (2002) is played on loop. McQueen is filmed dissecting the suit, redressing the skin of the bridegroom in layers of paint. The process of deconstruction and transition works in correspondence with the transformation in style of the two Hepworth sculptures. It’s a subtle pairing, and perhaps not a particularly deliberate one – but it only goes to demonstrate the depth at play beyond the surface in Disobedient Bodies.

There is much that can be said for the exhibition that Anderson has gracefully curated for the Hepworth Wakefield, for there is much to be seen. The list of those whose work is on display in Disobedient Bodies is lengthy; from cutting-edge chairs by Irish designer Eileen Gray, to work by Young British Artist Sarah Lucas, to that of French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska – and garments by Rick Owens, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, Issey Miyake, Yves Saint Laurent, and, of course, amongst many others, Anderson’s own designs for JW Anderson and Loewe. Though fashion as art, and alongside art, do not make for the most likely of bedfellows, Disobedient Bodies is an exhibition that exceeds expectations.

Anderson manages to dismantle the cult of high regard with which art and fashion are often upheld by respectively; craftsmanship and creativity are celebrated in Disobedient Bodies, not for the labels associated with the pieces on display, but for the diverse and innovative ways in which the human body is distorted, depicted, and complemented.

April 2017