If you're not already a dedicated follower of fashion's latest darling, Harris Reed, then add it to the top of your 2021 to-do list, because they're going to be big.
When the Central Saint Martins graduate isn't giving Harry Styles a whimsical wardrobe overhaul, or dressing everyone from Miley Cyrus and Zendaya, to Ellie Goldstein and Sam Smith, the flame-haired champion of gender fluid fashion is transforming the way we view beauty. Their latest mission? To re-calibrate our approach to make-up via a MAC collection inspired by the iconic gender role reversal movie, Orlando.
ELLE UK sat down with Reed to talk reclaiming their identity, make-up mishaps with Kaia Gerber, and why more glitter is always more...
In the current climate, why is make-up so important?
'Make-up for me has always played a vital role in my life. When I was younger, as someone who came out as being gay at nine years old, I remember being on the playground and all the other kids bullying me or picking on me because of what I wore. It was very much this thing where everyone was putting a label on me before I got to label myself. As a result, it sounds kind of corny, but I immediately found this love and passion for clothing and the way that dressing up let me reclaim who I was and reclaim my identity.
'Then when I found make-up, I was like "wow, if a pink shirt can spark a greater conversation for people in their heads then what can make-up do?" I remember playing with a lipstick in a drugstore and taking it home and drawing all over my face, even in my hairline. It was avant-garde to the extreme! I was so deeply fascinated by how much it could transform you - something that’s in a price range that anyone can obtain and it’s not excessive, it's accessible. We might not all be able to have a Harris Reed gown, but we can have a fantastic lip palette.'
What is it about make-up that makes it so powerful?
'That idea of not changing who you are but embracing a part of yourself that’s deep down within and expressing that on the exterior is so fascinating to me. We have this thin, [make-up], that’s able to elevate or highlight a part of yourself. I can't change outfits three times a day, as I would like to, but I can start the day wearing my eyeshadow one way, keep it in my pocket, then get off the tube with it [looking] completely another way. It’s about being playful with it, using make-up as a light-hearted exploration of yourself.'
How did make-up bring you joy during a truly awful 2020?
'Make-up was truly my salvation last year. Dressing up in fabulous clothes, making a collection and exploring make-up was genuinely how I kept my sanity. I followed the rules, stayed at home and created a whole collection from lockdown. But, I lived for my peacock moments of when I was able to go out - go to a fabulous party, go to a fabulous dance in the woods.
I love dressing up and being fabulous. At home, it was really difficult to do that so make-up became the thing I did instead. I would literally grab my eyeshadow, grab the glitter and just go f*cking crazy with it. It was a way that I could transport myself to another place.
'We all have eye bags because we're either binge watching Netflix all night, or like me, hand glue gunning a hat together the size of my living room… Other people were getting really into face masks and eye creams and I was like "I don't need a serum, I need something over the top and most likely gold". Gild me and love me and then leave me! This is the time that I'm gonna try that creepy cat eye from that weird 1960s movie I watched because if I hate it I can just get a make-up wipe and take it off. Lockdown allowed me to play with make-up in a really safe space.'
Is there such thing as a make-up disaster?
'Whether I'm designing, draping or doing my make-up, my worst mistake is usually the best work I ever do. There was a make-up look that I wanted to try that was a mix between a Rococo painting and Studio 54 and it just turned out with glitter exploding on my face. But, instead of wiping it off, I kind of rocked it and now it's one of my favourite looks.
'One time I went to a party with Kaia Gerber and my face smeared halfway across the wall just before we had our photo taken - my lipstick was literally all over my ear. I remember thinking, "Oh my god, this is terrible". Then I was like, "wait this is f*cking incredible". From that I created a mood board for my next collection all about this idea of smearing and peeling. It was a moment. I've always said: "You have to own your mistakes to move forward."'
What is it about the 1992 film Orlando that inspired your MAC collection?
'Orlando will always be such a deep reference for me, because as a young kid I watched that movie, and the way that Tilda Swinton blends gender and identity, and her gender expression resonated so deeply with me. When it came to this line with MAC, I really wanted it to be for everyone. It's not a men's line, it's not a women's line, it's for every single person - it's a fluid line.
'Of course, there are also these beautiful references in Orlando: you’ve got Tilda when she's in her female form and she's wearing gowns with rosy pink cheeks and red hair, and then you have her when she's still a man and she's dressed up as a diplomat with a powdered wig. I always like to build a fantasy, but that could be an insane full face of white powder or it could be a little bit of gold eyeshadow on your cupid's bow on a Monday morning.'
What do you see for the future of beauty?
'It's an evolution, it's fluid. I respect people who do contour and can "beat" their face, but for me, this line is about no brushes, all fingers - a more tactile approach. You can take a classic red lip but wear it in your hairline, as blusher, on your collarbone, as a slight contour, as an eyeshadow - all over your body! You can do so much with one singular item.
'I'm not a make-up artist, I'm a person who wants to build a more fluid place with my clothing and through the world that I create. I want to think about a better tomorrow, and the day we'll be touching each other again and hugging and dancing and loving.'
Harris x MAC is available to shop from 18 February
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