Harris Reed in her new role at Nina Ricci and inspired by the fashion of Jessica Simpson

For W’s annual The Originals portfolio, we asked creatives (pioneers in art, design, fashion, comedy, activism, and more) to share their ideas for staying true to themselves. See the full class of creations from this year here.

You’re 26 and have only five collections and three fashion shows under your belt, but you’ve already managed to get Beyoncé to wear one of your peacock feather headwear and Harry Styles to slip into a dress suit you designed. What is your secret?

The women on my team who make my dreams come true are witches, I swear. I call them witches in a good way, because it’s like there’s this cauldron and I throw feathers and sequins and lace and tulle in it, and they mix it all up and go. ensured that it came out well. I work with strong women who are always finding new ways to fulfill that little boy’s dreams of huge, head-turning, gender-neutral creations where they need to go. By the time I draw, they are already measuring the doors and figuring out which are the biggest crates to ship these crazy innovations from our little studio in London to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

How do you approach the business behind the fashion mix of your witches?

It’s pretty amazing that it’s half-tailored and there’s gender fluid and the clothes are as over the top as they are – and we’re actually making a profit. Everyone loves McQueen for his credentials and how amazing he was as a designer, but I also reference how he was as a businessman. For the first McQueen collections, I believe, none of the pieces went to a retailer. These first collections were really aimed at making the brand’s philosophy known. And that’s what I really tried to do with my creations: to show what I can do and who I am.

It’s an original way to think about a designer’s legacy.

I think people underestimate me as a businessman, because of the American accent, the long hair, the fact that I like to dress up and be glamorous. Even in Central Saint Martins, people called me Jessica Simpson because I wore flared pants and blouses. I was always like, ‘I hope I get to be as big as Jessica Simpson, it’s a billion dollar conglomerate. Whether it was Viktor & Rolf or Thierry Mugler, the first thing that obsessed me about these brands was their business model. How could they do amazing sewing and still generate income? In school, I remember thinking that if I wanted to make amazing pieces like Mugler, McQueen, or the early Gallianos, I had to find a business model that would work for me.

It was recently announced that you will be Nina Ricci’s new creative director. How do you see the brand fitting into your own distinctive approach to fashion?

Honestly, having the opportunity to explore the nuances of femininity in such an iconic house is a dream come true.

You live in London. How do you think your American accent shapes the way the British perceive you?

What I love about America – and I think it’s both bad and good – is that the country is synonymous with being a place where anything is possible. You can conquer the world. I don’t want to generalize, but Brits tend to be very humble and quiet, almost self-deprecating. They’ll be like, “Oh, that’s not so good,” whereas I have this American thing where I walk into meetings saying, “That’s the best thing you’ve ever seen.” My friends roll their eyes when I talk about wanting my work to be a huge success. They’re like, “How can you talk like that?” And I’m like, “Well, I have to, because I have to come up with $200,000 to make this show happen!”

What was your education like?

My mother is Mexican-American and my father is British. I was born in California, but we moved 28 times before I left for college, so I’ve lived in California, Arizona, Oregon, Seattle, and Washington. And then France for a year. Moving so much forced me to perfect the elevator pitch of who I am. Ever since I was young, I’ve had manners that society considers bizarre. I came out when I was 9 years old. I was living in Arizona at the time, which was not the place to be as a queer kid. My mom took me and my sister back to California because the bullying was so bad. However, it was in Arizona that I learned that I liked to play with people’s expectations a little. It was like, Oh, I’m gonna wear a pink polo shirt because everybody’s gonna freak out on the playground and say things.

This same modus operandi is now used to test binary gender in fashion.

When you see pictures on social media of me talking to people at dinner parties or reading about how open arms fashion has been for me, everything looks so amazing on the outside. But what you don’t see is that for all the early stages of my career, everyone treated the idea of ​​gender fluidity as a costume, not a fashion. The country side and the references to different time periods were immediately taken as theater and not something to be taken really seriously. Don’t get me wrong: I love theatre. But I’m not here to be a costume designer. I’m here to be a fashion designer, just someone with a message.

Terri Capon’s hair for Color Wow at Stella Creative Artists; makeup by Joey Choy for Charlotte Tilbury Beauty at Premiere Hair and Makeup; fashion assistant: Andrew Burling; special thanks to The Standard Hotel, London.

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