Harris Reed on why glamour still matters, even in lockdown

Becki Murray
·7-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

From Harper's BAZAAR

Harris Reed agrees that the appeal of everyday make-up has rather lost its sparkle during the successive Covid-19 lockdowns, where a lack of human contact has hardly dictated the need for a full face of perfectly blended foundation. But, at a time when mental health is under immense strain and outlets for creativity feel curbed, the Central Saint Martins-trained designer argues that it's never been more important to embrace glamour and express ourselves through beauty.

"I know a lot of people have decided not to wear make-up at-home, which I totally understand, but it offers such an opportunity to get creative," explains Reed. "When you're stuck inside, no one is looking at you and you aren’t bombarded with trends or influenced by what people are doing or wearing on the high street. Instead, you are free to explore your individuality and creativity.”

Recently honoured with an accolade at Bazaar's 2020 Women of the Year awards, Reed is at the centre of the drive for more fluidity, both in identity and fashion. They are already making waves, notably working on Harry Styles' recent tour wardrobe, while their graduate collection - Thriving In Our Outrage, created during the first lockdown - was displayed in the windows of Matches Fashion's London flagship store.

“I think glamour is honestly about embracing a heightened version of your best self, so there’s no right or wrong time for it,” Reed continues. “Maybe my version of glamour is wearing feathers, flares, amazing gold eyes and powerful highlighter, but my mum's glamour could be putting on a great red lipstick with her favourite pair of jeans and combat boots. I think glamorous make-up really helps to express and highlight the best parts of yourself – and it is really fun.”

Inclusivity, experimentation and, yes, glamour are at the heart of Reed's latest exciting lockdown project – a capsule make-up collaboration with Mac, launching in February.

"What I love about make-up is that it's so accessible to everyone. We can't all have a designer ballgown or tweed suit in our closet, but we can have a fucking amazing lipstick that has the same transformative powers," Reed reveals. "For me, it's about providing an accessible product that really has the same kind of punch that my design work has."

It's perhaps not surprising that Reed chose to collaborate with Mac. A name synonymous with inclusion, the brand offered diverse foundation shades and bright colour pigments long before many competitors caught up.

"For me, working with Mac felt right, because it was one of the first brands putting men in make-up and embracing inclusivity," explains Reed. "I really hope this collection is something that can help me break down conventional ideas of what make-up looks like. I hope in 2021 and going forward that ‘glamour’ is going to be about something more than just copying a set-in-stone look from a tutorial. It's about asking 'how does that work for my face, my features and my personality?'"

The collection, which includes a nine-pan eyeshadow palette, three high-impact lipsticks, an eye pencil and a bold highlighter/blush version of Mac's signature Cream Colour Base, is deliberately designed to encourage you to be your own artist. The lipsticks arrive in a palette, rather than traditional bullets, encouraging unrestricted finger-swipes and experimental blending. Moreover, Reed is keen for us to abandon the rules of each product category altogether.

"I take the lipstick on my fingers and I'm using it as a blush or as an eyeshadow, and I'm applying the eyeshadow on my lips for that little bit of gold shimmer. Of course, you can use brushes if you like, but I wanted this idea that everything was so tactile and that it was almost like an artist’s palette.”

What’s also clear is that, just like with fashion, Reed sees make-up not just as something you put on your face but as an important part of identity. Perhaps that's why they name the make-up artist Terry Barber (Mac’s director of make-up artistry, whose tagline on Instagram is ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’) as their inspiration. The MUA is well-known within the industry for telling “a story through the make-up he creates”.

"Every day, when I get dressed, it is never just about putting on clothes or make-up,” Reed explains. “It’s about how and what I want to communicate to the world. Do you want your face to say, 'I know I'm fabulous', to fake confidence, or to actually admit you are a little shy? Make-up has that power and that's why it can be the ultimate storytelling device.”

They continue: "I cant change my clothes multiple times a day, but I can keep an eyeshadow or lipstick in my pocket. I can start the day with one mood, but change and amplify it by lunchtime. Then, by the evening it’s a full-blown party."

“When I was young, I remember using my mum's lipstick and putting it all over my face and eyes. I instantly saw the transformative power that make-up can have and that has really evolved further going into my twenties,” they explain. “As a kid, I never had anyone that I could really identify with, so I looked to movies like Orlando where Tilda Swinton played that amazing character, or I was inspired by the New York Dolls or Mick Jagger. Those were the people that weren't necessarily queer, but gave this idea that you could be androgynous or performative and you didn't have to conform to be the status quo."

"I have always aimed with everything I do to create a space where people feel comfortable to step forward and to express themselves in a non-normative way," Reed concludes. "What I love about beauty is that it is increasingly about breaking a mould and I hope that this collection is at the forefront of that. It isn’t make-up for women and it isn’t make-up for men. It's make-up for everyone.”

Harris Reed’s guide to empowering glamour

If experimenting with bold looks – regardless of whether you plan to leave the house or not – still feels too daunting, you needn’t worry. Follow Reed's simple advice for expressing yourself through glamorous make-up, without necessarily becoming the centre of attention on your next Zoom call...

1.Don’t overthink it

"When you're buying make-up, just as when you buy clothes, don’t look at how it is styled. Obviously, you can learn a lot by watching YouTube videos or how-tos, but sometimes it's better if you literally just gravitate towards a colour, a texture, a sparkle, a shimmer – something that speaks to you in your heart. You’re probably going to get it wrong sometimes, but it's the same when I’m doing a collection. You know, there's about hundred drapes that never work out just to get that one iconic piece."

2. Go for gold

"I would say get one good gold shimmer and start to play with that. What I love about gold is that it works on everyone - whether you are going really crazy with a full Studio 54 eye or you just take a little bit and put it on your cheeks, eye crease and your Cupid's bow.”

3. Love your lipstick

“Sometimes it's about doing less but having something that’s so authentic to you. Why not grab your favourite lipstick colour and start experimenting?”

4. Build up your colour

“I wanted everything in the collection to be very pigmented, but there is nothing wrong with just gently dabbing your finger for something really light.”

5. Conquer fear

“I think people in the past thought beauty had to look a specific way, so they got scared to try it. That goes for men, women, non-binary individuals, everyone. Beauty should not be intimidating or scary. Buy a product that speaks to you and don’t be scared – just have fun with it.”

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