By: Kimberly Rodrigues
Harri, whose real name is Harikrishnan Keezhathil Surendran Pillai, is the designer whose striking oufit Sam Smith wore to the 2023 Brit Awards. The renowned British singer donned a bespoke, all-black latex ensemble featuring billowing shoulders and trousers, along with a pair of matching high-heeled boots.
Taking to his Instagram account Harri posted, “What would you call this look? #michelinman.”
This isn’t the first time Harri or his work has caught the media’s attention. He went viral in 2020, just before the pandemic, with his London College of Fashion graduate collection that included inflatable latex trousers that were nicknamed “balloon pants” by the media.
His collection’s success led to his nomination for the British Fashion Council’s Newgen programme, which has previously supported designers like Priya Ahluwalia who is a London-born designer of Indian and Nigerian heritage.
Following his graduation with a master’s degree in menswear in June of the same year, Harri launched his namesake brand and started working from London and New Delhi.
In September 2022, he made his debut at London Fashion Week, showcasing his Spring/Summer 2023 collection on the opening day of the event.
Currently, he experiments with exaggerated proportions and alternates between various materials and sculptural forms.
According to the London Fashion Week website, “Building on personal yet universal themes taken from classical and surrealistic contexts, he focuses on the duality between the notion of clothing as an art and a mimetic practice.”
Despite being raised in a small village in southern Kerala with no exposure to fashion, Harri told Vogue India before his London Fashion Week show, “My dad used to do artwork for local commercials, which inspired me to sketch and visualise things from a very young age.”
In 2012, he enrolled at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Bangalore, India, before assisting Indian designer Suket Dhir in New Delhi and eventually pursued further studies at the London College of Fashion.
It was apparently humour that sparked the idea for the “balloon” trousers, although the response to his work has been serious.
The designer told Vogue that the initial idea for the trousers came from a humourous thought of “visualising myself from my dog’s perspective and considering how he sees me”. ‘Am I like a giant figure with big legs and a small head?’
Harri’s consideration of his dog’s perspective sparked a range of ideas for shapes that were anatomically impossible. He was then motivated to search for a material that could fulfill those proportions.
Harri opted to work with latex due to several reasons. First, it is plant-based and a less-polluting alternative to leather. It also provides greater flexibility and stretch in comparison to cow’s hide or PVC.
Harri’s design was a one-of-a-kind look that caught the attention of MC Hammer, who reached out to him.
Harri reflected that his collection was launched at the start of the pandemic. However, the collection was able to bring a smile to people’s faces. For Harri, this was the essence of his work. He added that people were not focused on the material or technicalities of the design. Rather, they saw an image, which is the core of his style – an approach to fashion that emphasises the creation of powerful visual images.