Brooklyn-based designer Kris Harring is on a mission to look beyond gender to celebrate individuality and creative self-expression. Her refusal to compromise in her design aesthetic showed through in her innovative collection at our summer fashion event, and earned her the title of 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard. We caught up with Kris to find out more about how she found her voice as a genderfluid designer, the inspiration behind her winning collection, and her advice for emerging LGBTQ designers.
OUT: Kris, congratulations on being named the 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard. How does it feel to officially have the title?
Kris Harring: Thank you. It feels amazing to have won the title of OUT Fashion Vanguard. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to share my work and my story with a new audience.
Kris Harring's model walks the OUT Fashion Vanguard runway.
You truly stunned with your runway collection at our New York City event. Can you tell us a little about your design process, and how you put your collection together?
The premise behind my brand is to create wearable basics that can be incorporated into anyone’s wardrobe. I want to start out with a strong brand identity, and make it clear who I am as a designer. So for this event, I focused on expanding the capsule collection that I’ve been working on this year with new silhouettes, designs and fabrications. I want my work to always be an ongoing extension of the previous - just as if one is adding pieces to their wardrobe in their closet. There are so many brands out there to choose from, I want to make sure that I have a strong identity. You will know exactly who I am before you read the tag.
Kris Harring's second model walks the OUT Fashion Vanguard runway.
I focused on three central design elements to tie the entire collection together. Sleek, sophisticated design, elegant fabrications, and tailoring techniques. The interior of the Lexus LS has beautiful pleated details that I used as inspiration to tie my collection together. I included pleated fabrics and hand-pleated details throughout the line, which translated well as a subtle sophistication and craftsmanship that the Lexus brand is known for delivering.
Part of the reason we love your collection is that it looks beyond the boundaries of gender in fashion. How has this refusal to compromise influenced your work and your voice as a designer?
I am quite simply being myself, and I think the refusal to allow anyone else to define me directly reflects my voice as a designer. Gender fluidity is a huge conversation at the moment, and is one which I am excited that we are finally having. But this is simply who I am in a literal sense, but also as a human being learning more about myself, loving myself a little more every day, and expressing myself with confidence to declare who I am as a designer.
Kris Harring (center) tells OUT Fashion Editor Michael Cook (right) why she deserves to be named the 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard.
Tell us about your experience meeting the other designers. What was it like on the day of the event?
I enjoy meeting other designers and creatives in the industry and seeing what motivates and inspires them to do what they do. We all have different points of view, so it’s something that I personally enjoy.
There was a lot going on the day of the event, we were all finalizing looks. We were all just meeting our models for the first time, so we had no idea who was going to wear what. With my clothing being very tailored, it's nerve-wrecking to do a first time fitting on the day-of, because you just never know. But that adds to the fun and creativity of it. All of my models were amazing, fun to work with and they really embodied and embraced the spirit of the clothes.
Kris Harring (center) poses with OUT Fashion Vanguard judges Parke Lutter, Aaron Hicklin, Cynthia Tenhouse, and Ronen Jehezkel.
Did you receive any special words of advice from our host, OUT Fashion Editor Michael Cook, or any of the judges, including Lexus General Manager Cynthia Tenhouse? How did they react upon seeing your collection for the first time?
Cynthia was a huge fan of my work. I think she really felt like it represented the luxury and sophistication of the Lexus brand. It was fun to explain my vision to new people who were able see the clothes up close, and explain the inspiration behind creating a gender neutral line. I loved watching both Michael and Cynthia choose pieces from the collection that they would wear, telling me how they would wear it.
It seemed like you had such a community of support at the event to lift you up. Who came out to support you, and what would you like to say to them now that you are officially the winner of the 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard Awards?
My mom came up from Maryland to be there, and my Brooklyn crew who have watched me work hard for years to get to this point were also there in support. You are only as strong as the people you surround yourself with, so I thank them for always lifting me up and encouraging me to keep going.
Kris Harring and Michael Cook on stage moments after she is announced as the 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard, presented by Lexus.
What advice would you share with other LGBTQ designers who are finding their own voice?
To anyone who is still searching for their own voice: your voice is already inside you. It’s up to you to take the time to listen.
I ask myself every day, "What am I doing? Why am I doing this?" It keeps me focused and it keeps me grounded on my purpose.
We all have a story to tell, and we all deserve to be heard. I believe it takes time to learn how to listen within. It’s so easy to get lost in the world and to listen to others instead of listening to yourself. I say take your time. Take time to explore and learn. Study things that are of interest to you. Take time to be still. Take time to just create. Give yourself permission to take chances and make mistakes.
Kris Harring with her models backstage at the OUT Fashion Vanguard Awards.
Part of your prize is a 6-week mentorship with Park Lutter and Ronen Jehezkel of menswear brand, Parke & Ronen. What are you looking forward to out of this opportunity to design your own capsule collection for their NYC store?
I’m excited to have this mentorship with Parke and Ronen because it is my goal as a businesswoman to be in their shoes one day, having a store and growing a successful business. As a designer and creative director, I look forward to the creative challenge of taking my brand aesthetic and merging it with theirs. Because our design styles are so different, it leaves room to have fun and explore, and to really be innovative.
2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard winner Kris Harring poses with her five models wearing looks from her collection.
Now that you are the official 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard, what’s next for you?
Funding! I'll be working on strategic partnerships that can help me grow the brand. I’ve been able to do some amazing work as a one-person show in a short amount of time, but I can only imagine what I could do with a team and some money behind me.
To find out more about the 2018 OUT Fashion Vanguard Awards, visit OUT.com/FashionVanguard.