Above, watch the submission video for the 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard Awards from designer Kris Harring.
The 3rd Annual OUT Fashion Vanguard Awards, presented by Lexus, is our search for the next talented designer on the cutting edge of fashion. Three of the fashion industry's top emerging design talent will vie to win a six-week mentorship to design a capsule collection for Parke & Ronen, be featured in an upcoming issue of OUT, and be named the 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard.
Brooklyn-based designer Kris Harring creates fashion that looks beyond gender to celebrate indiviudality and creative self-expression. She merges traditional norms of "mens" and "womenswear" to create her own uncompromoising designs that give freedom to their wearer. We caught up with Kris as she was building her collection to debut this Wednesday night at the 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard Awards in New York City.
OUT: Congrats on being picked as one of just three designer finalists! How does it feel to compete for the title of the 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard?
Kris Harring: Thank you! It feels a little surreal to be recognized for my work at such an early stage in my career, but I am extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity.
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you find your voice as a designer?
As a child and a teen, I was a “tomboy.” I played almost every sport you could imagine. I was never “into” fashion in the traditional sense of reading fashion magazines such as Vogue because they didn't speak to me, and I actually never grew up dreaming to become a designer. I grew up around a sewing machine and in fabric stores because my mom and grandmother would make our clothes, but I hated every minute of it. I remember my mom asking me when I was younger if I wanted her to teach me how to sew and make patterns. I refused. I saw it as a “girly” thing to do, and at that time in my life I rejected everything considered “feminine”.
It wasn't until I became a teenager and young adult when I started to pay more attention to my personal style and crafting my own look. That included shopping in the men's and women's sections and meshing the clothes together to craft my look. That shaped how I think about clothing, silhouette and fabrics as a designer. For example, if I found a shirt in the women's aisle and I was in love with the fabric, it would always have one-too-many embellishments, or a weird silhouette, when it would have been a beautiful shirt without all the extra add-ons. Shopping in the men's section and finding a shirt with a great shape but no variety in the fabrics felt very plain and boring.
In essence, my voice as a designer is literally an image of me standing in the middle of a store between the men's and women's sections, and merging both worlds together.
Without giving too much away, what can we expect from your collection when it hits the runway?
You can expect a cohesive, sophisticated collection that speaks to my point of view of what gender-fluid in the eveningwear space looks and feels like. Think beautiful fabrics, silhouettes, and tailoring that seemlessly merges the worlds of the masculine and the feminine.
Part of your design challenge is to take inspiration from our presenting sponsor, Lexus, in particular the uncompromising Lexus LC and the visionary Lexus LS. Can you give us a preview of how your collection will integrate the bold, thoughtful, and imaginative principles that Lexus uses to create amazing luxury vehicles?
"Uncompromising" and "visionary" are two words I would use to describe my brand and my collection. I'm using sleek, sophisticated design incorporated with tailoring techniques such as pleating details to my tuxedo shirts to mimic the hand pleats in the Lexus LS interior door cards, and inverted and repeated "L's" in the grille. I'm also inspired by the beautiful textures and fabrics they use for luxury design. Lexus represents subtle sophistication and sleek design, which is exactly what I look to bring to life in my collection.
Is there anything else you would like us or our readers to know before you debut your collection at the 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard Awards event on July 25?
As a LGBTQ gender non-conforming person, my work as a designer is directly tied to my identity and connection to the community. I did not feel like the fashion industry saw or spoke to me, so I started my line to essentially fill a void that I felt was missing for myself. As we evolve into a culture that is starting to question gender and embrace individuality, it's encouraging to see the conversations taking place and to be in a position to add my own voice to the conversation as well.