The Untold Story Behind Harry Styles’ Incredible Lights Up Outfit By The Designer Who Made It
If you know about Harris Reed, you know. And if you don't? Well, keep up at the back. Reed is one of fashion's most exciting new talents, his designs lauded for their sparkly romance, their craft and unbridled otherworldliness. Reed came to GQ's attention a couple of years ago while he was still at Central Saint Martins, his designs already imbued with a silhouette that was both modern and nostalgic, all washed with an achingly cool, non-binary LA energy: his aesthetic has darkness, light, glamour and a non-threatening sense of their own sexiness. His designs aren't just gender-fluid, they're like wearing liquid gold.
Fashion's worst-kept secret is the fact that Reed has been working with Harry Styles for a couple of years now, making one-off outfits for the singer's spectacular stage shows and offering the musician looks that seem in harmony with his renewed sense of self and megawatt style. Last week, when Styles' lascivious, wanton, sweaty and d**n good new song, "Lights Up", was blasted out into the world, we noticed it was one of Reed's bespoke designs that the artist had decided to wear for his second solo jaunt. As the video caught fire and went global, we called the ever-charming Reed to talk to him about working with Styles, how the outfit for "Lights Up" came about exactly and just how far he thinks Styles is willing to go with his new covetable gender-blurring aesthetic...
GQ: Hey Harris, nice talking to you again. How's it going?
Harris Reed: "Well, I have a stinking cold, which is the worst. Especially when you are supposed to be working and selling a collection, it can seem like it's ruining your life. But it's OK, I will get through it."
Congratulations on your design for Harry Styles' outfit for "Lights Up". You must be thrilled?
"Thank you, I am really happy. And it's cute as well that Harry made his little icon photo on Instagram an image of the outfit from the video. Quite pleased to say the least."
When did you first start working with Harry Styles?
"My big connect with Harry goes back to Harry Lambert, his stylist, who was the first person I ever worked with and the first person who pulled in any of my clothes years ago. I had that relationship with him starting about two years ago and after a while [Lambert] told me, 'I think you're ready, even though you're right at the beginning of your career, to meet this person...' I pulled some designs together – I didn't really know who it was at this point – but I put together some references. Jimi Hendrick and [David] Bowie and Mick Jagger – you know, just classic rock’n’roll iconic frontmen whom I could see in the designs. Then that's when I heard that it was actually for Harry Styles."
When did you first meet Harry?
"It was November 2017 at one of his shows, at the Hammersmith Arena, and I got a text message from Harry Lambert saying, 'OK, just meet us at the stage door.' It was insane – a sea of screaming girls, men and women were fainting and being taken away in ambulances... I was like, 'What the f***?' It was insane. And so I found the stage door and went up to this woman who was wearing this huge red coat and I went, 'Hi, I am here to see Harry Styles.' Obviously she laughed in in my face, saying something like, 'Who the f*** are you?' I replied, 'I am going to be Harry Styles' designer.' Like that, I'm not sure where the bravado came from! She goes, 'Of course, come with me.' I was led me through the crowd and right then and there I met Harry and the rest is history, I guess."
How much steer did Harry give you initially for the clothing?
"Honestly, Harry [Styles] was truly the way I envisioned. I think it was Harry Lambert who originally gave me some references for the first work I did for him. It was never a strict brief, but initially I only had about a day to put something together, like, the day before. It was so late to the process. It was more how I could see my designs adapting for him. And then when I went into the meeting I was like, 'Let's do ruffles!' I went a bit crazy, and that's when [Styles] got a lot more involved and was steering me in the direction he wanted. But Harry [Styles] was so open to what I saw for him and what I wanted was an old-world elegance rather than seeing some hot guy in skinny jeans and a T-shirt jumping around on stage – which can work and is amazing - but I wanted to make this aesthetic far more romantic. Watching him as he performs on stage, he is so explosive and amazing at dancing and moving around... Listen, I have so much respect for Gucci and what they do for him, but because of that relationship he was wearing so many suits, so I felt like what I could offer was more fluid, a flounciness or a different silhouette, billowy sleeves and so on. Even the outfit I did for the 'Lights Up' video was sleeveless and the trousers had a slight flare, so he could dance and do his pelvic thrusting, which he loves to do."
The outfit for Lights Up, when did you start working on this particular style moment for him?
"I was coming back from my week-long hiatus in LA during the summer after finishing at Gucci, so I was exhausted. I was in New York and Harry [Lambert] got in contact to say, 'Hey, I don't know if you're up for this but Harry would love you to do something for the next video.' All top secret, of course. All he sent me were two Pantone colours of blue with a note: 'It needs to be in this shade of blue; I can't tell you too much else.' And I was like, well, OK. And at the time I wasn't drunk... But let's say I was enjoying myself in NYC and it was really late at night and Harry [Styles] was actually there shooting his Rolling Stone cover and, as a coincidence, his stylist was like, 'Can you get some ideas to me really quickly. He needs to be able to move in it and it needs to look like he's about to go on stage and take the world.' So I kind I thought, 'movement', 'take the world' and 'stage' and got to work..."
Did you design it straight away?
"Yeah, I was in a bar, [The Bowery Hotel] so I asked the barman for a napkin and he handed me this piece of paper and I did a chicken scratch drawing and sent it back to Harry right away. He was like, 'This is perfect.' I did so many more sketches at the time, but he liked this one, it was so easy and clean and it reminds me a bit of David Bowie's 'Dog Days' but more sparkly and upbeat and less linen and long hair."
Did you have time for fittings and so on?
"Erm, no! We made the piece literally in three days. I got back from NYC with that sketch and they were leaving on a plane to do the video imminently. So I landed in London, went to all my favourite fabric shops in Soho, running around like a crazy madman with all these Pantone swatches of fabric. I have dozens of photos of all these different hues of blue. We ended up using a blue silk moire as it needed to be water resistant, or not water resistant, just be able to work with water, so reflective and shiny without being too heavy and not too hot, as the video was being filmed in South America. And we didn't have any time to do a fitting, so I had to fit the whole outfit on myself. Harry and I have very different body proportions so we were just very lucky. I remember they flew to South America to shoot the video and Harry [Styles] texted me, 'It fits! It works!' And I was in f***ing heaven. I didn't sleep for a solid three days doing that outfit so I was thrilled."
This isn't the first outfit you've made for Harry Styles. Where are all those incredible one-off designs stored? Surely this archive must be preserved somewhere?
"I can't say where it is located, but everything goes to an archive. It's basically like a giant refrigerator – a frozen vault – somewhere in London where I am not going to disclose. But the clothes all have 24 hours surveillance, which you can look at via an iPad, specifically done for his outfits, and they have all been cryogenically frozen in time to preserve them. That's also what is more surreal for me. After his first solo tour that I produced 14-15 looks for – he wore about six or seven – I was wondering where the others were and he was like, 'Don't worry, they are all under surveillance.' I was like, 'Oh, that's chic.'"
Can you tell us what is next in the pipeline for you and Mr Styles?
"Hmm... Let me see what can I say. I think people can expect some pretty crazy, fabulous things coming. I can't say too much. I think with Harry I am hoping this is really just the beginning and as he evolves with his own music, and I evolve as a young designer, I hope we can work on more possible projects and clothes and... things!"
Do you hear the music before you make the outfits for him?
"I think the way he speaks about the music, the way he speaks about the process is a real influence on me as a designer. I was lucky enough to go an see him in the studio this summer, and just seeing the passion and the ideas... I am someone who talks a lot with my hands and he's the same, like he's really orchestrating his whole universe. Even the way the 'Lights Up' video was teased, it's never just music with him as for me it's never just clothes – it's the message too. That is what inspires me. I hope I get to hear little teasers of new music along the way, although I always have his stuff sort of on a loop in the studio anyway... Old school rock’n’roll and dashes of Harry Styles along the way."
Do you ever get intimidated by the fact these designs will make up part of his musical legacy?
"Honestly, from a design perspective, I don't worry, because when he tells me he loves something nothing else really matters. And because I'm not just designing a black T-shirt or a simple pair of trousers, I am making a statement, so it actually takes the pressure off me. I don't worry about it if he doesn't. I worry more about a seam splitting open. I remember he wore a few outfits for his big tour of Asia and I made all those outfits on my £50 sewing machine while eating chicken nuggets at five in the morning. I was still studying, and I don't have a proper atelier, so its those technical worries that are the things that stress me out. People don't know this but there's a picture in Rolling Stone where he is near naked holding a ping pong bat and the caption is something like, 'Harry waiting for a garment to be fixed' and it was my garment and the zipper had ripped right off. But he sort of says, 'Let's take this fashion risk together', so nothing else matters. As I said, if he loves it, I am happy."
Ever feel like you're pushing him too far with your designs?
"[Laughs.] He is so lovely and I don't think he ever wants to tell someone 'no' but there's definitely been a time when I laid out the designs from the most timid to the craziest, and when we got the craziest, he does this thing with his lips where he smiles, but he he's like, 'OK, we're not going to go this far.' But it probably involved an outfit with his a*s hanging out or some huge Liberace cape... So he's always open, but sometimes I can see in his eyes that he's not quite there with me. I try to read those little mannerisms."