“The Show Must Go On.” Harris Reed Debuts A Gender Fluid Collection For London Fashion Week

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Harris Reed enlists Queen frontman Adam Lambert for his show

In the run-up to London Fashion Week spring/summer 2023, Harris Reed shared an Instagram message that summed up the importance of the “the show must go on” attitude shared by the city’s designers in these unprecedented times. “After the news of the Queen’s passing, it’s been incredible to see how the community has pulled together,” says Reed, who is prouder than ever to present his work alongside his peers. “I hope it instils how important fashion is at times like these. Fashion makes us dream. It brings us joy.” Here, the key takeaways from Reed’s latest fantasy showcase, from the surprise guest to the Zendaya dress that’s destined for stardom.

Reed staged his first runway show

The sheer stature of Harris Reed silhouettes (those hats!) has previously prohibited the ambitious designer from presenting his work on models in motion, but this season Reed is pushing the idea of fluidity and performance in fashion. “I never wanted to be a traditional ‘up, down, turnaround’ runway designer,” notes Harris, who enlisted a movement director to help him realize his desired spectacle of “individuals meandering through the Dutch Hall and embodying a kind of mood”. The grand setting—all red velvet drapery and gothic decor—added to the sense of poeticism with which Reed imbues his work.

Queen frontman Adam Lambert was in charge of the soundtrack

While watching Queen in concert, Reed’s partner broke down crying. He told Harris he had never felt so seen by the person performing: “Someone who was so queer and authentically themselves and out and proud.” That man was Adam Lambert. So when it came to the music for the show, Reed knew Queen’s modern-day frontman was the man for the job (previous performers at Harris Reed shows have included Sam Smith and Kelsey Lu). Even more so, when he found a Freddie Mercury quote likening concerts to fashion shows. The presentation closed with a searing rendition of “Who Wants to Live Forever”, which was written after Brian May’s father died. “It’s such a moving and emotional song, and felt very appropriate within this space,” shares Reed.

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The Harris Reed bride is as Harris Reed as it gets

Rounding out the 12 ornate looks—which mused on what might happen at a debutante ball once everyone splinters off to find their own parties—was the bride. Holding white lilies as a nod to Her Majesty and channelling the kind of campy glamour Reed is known for, the mood was Victoriana meets ballet attire. While Harris doesn’t shout about his bridalwear, that side of his business is booming, with people of all genders looking to Reed for something that represents their individuality. Corsetry and crinoline become off-kilter fabulous in Reed’s hands, but he is quick to thank the freelancers who helped him elevate his art-piece fashion into true demi-couture ballgowns this season (something he was able to afford thanks to the financial success of his autumn/winter 2022 collection).

Harris snapped up the last deadstock sequins in London

The 26-year-old creative, who is quickly becoming something of a figurehead for young designers, says he learned a lot from his collaborators this season—from Charlotte Tilbury and Missoma to the pattern-cutters pushing him to level up his construction—but no doubt Reed will have taught them the joys of deadstock. “It’s my favorite challenge each season,” asserts this committed upcycler, who estimates 70 per cent of the collection is sustainable. From the colorful sequins sourced in Tunbridge to the silk taffeta, technical organza and velvet Reed acquired from LVMH’s deadstock showroom, it’s a textural feast for the eyes – one that shows you don’t have to cut standards when sourcing second-hand. “I really hope people are blown away by the level of quality,” says the designer, who always documents the hard work of his team in the run-up to show day.

There’s one particular dress calling Zendaya’s name

Reed has fallen hard for one specific look that encompasses the inclusive celebratory nature of his brand: a giant peacock-blue silk taffeta deconstructed ballgown. While usually Harris Reed looks are a lesson in layering – featuring trousers, club-kid boots, corsetry, drapery, hats—this confection “encompasses the entire brand world in one hero piece”. Its nickname? The “Zendaya dress”, because it’s crying out for some Gen-Z drama. A note on his signature platforms too: this season, Reed has made them infinitely more wearable.

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