From the start, Harris Reed has upended fashion’s established way of doing things: getting a look in Vogue, on Harry Styles no less, before his first fashion show, and on the day of that runway debut landing the kind of profile in The New Yorker that designers twice his age are still holding out hope for.
Last September, days after his third London fashion show, he was appointed the creative director of Nina Ricci, extending his disruptive streak. Reed is a Central Saint Martins grad, which used to be the kind of credential you needed to land a job in a design studio, and then work your way up. Online community building is the metric that increasingly matters today. With his social media fluency and his significant following, Reed skipped the years of on-the-job training and landed a front man position.
In the lead-up to this Paris show, Styles wore a black Nina Ricci tuxedo by Reed accessorized by an enormous silk flower at the throat to the BRIT Awards, suggesting that his Nina Ricci would be as gender fluid as his own label, a new direction for the French brand. Before and after that, Adele wore a custom Reed creation for Ricci to perform in Las Vegas, and Florence Pugh chose another for the BAFTAs.
That celebrity endorsements and red carpet placements will be important to the new Nina Ricci strategy was evident from the front row, where the stylists Law Roach (Zendaya) and Marni Senofonte (Beyoncé) mixed with Kiernan Shipka and Richie Shazam. More so, it was made clear by the looks that came down the runway, which were tilted to big evenings and photo calls, with polka dots galore, fluoro feathers, giant bows, and a surrealistic baby lamb print commissioned from the artist Jeanine Brito.
Pugh’s orange tulle gown made an appearance, only split into two pieces with a slice of peekaboo midriff. First modeled by Styles at the BRITs, the tailoring looked like it took its cues from Bianca and Mick Jagger’s matching 1971 wedding suits—down to the extra-wide brimmed hats. Runway-spanning circle skirts leaned perilously close to costume. And then there was the show-closing hobble skirt—the model who wore it deserves a prize for not toppling over.
A pouf-sleeved denim jacket and matching high-waisted jean flares provided some counter-balance, but the drama was the point. “Everyone has really turned out all the stops, it’s a bold new statement,” Reed said backstage. There’s no easing into these jobs, but the finesse expected of the Paris runways may come with more time. Where Reed is way out ahead of some of his peers is with his cast. Precious Lee opened the show, and as she vamped for the cameras, it was a reminder of the too narrow and old-fashioned visions of beauty seen elsewhere this week.