Storied Indonesian designer Harry Halim shares his ideas around genderfluid fashion and talks about his latest creations with Prestige.
The name Harry Halim is, without question, eminent in Indonesia’s fashion industry and amongst fashion enthusiasts. The Indonesian born designer has successfully established a name as a world class fashion designer and has brought his own label to the global stage. When he showcased his spring/summer collection at Paris Fashion Week 2011, Harry made history by being the first Indonesian designer to be part of the official calendar of Paris Fashion Week. His creations have also been worn by the likes of rapper Cardi B, Lil Kim, singer Bebe Rexha and Teyana Taylor, to actress Tiffany Haddish.
Two years ago, Prestige talked with Harry about his label and its 10th anniversary themed “Fatalité.” At the time, the designer shared that the name “Fatalité” was a word taken from a quote by French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (“La fatalité triomphe dès que l’on croit en elle”) and was meant to show how the collection reflected on the past 10 years of his career as a fashion designer. It was also the first time that one of his collections had been available at an Indonesian retailer.
Currently, Harry’s time is occupied with the creation of the HARRY HALIM menswear line along with other upcoming projects. “After Paris Fashion Week, we launched HARRY HALIM Couture in Los Angeles, the ‘Erotic Romantica’ spring/summer 2021 collection and the ‘Belladonna’ fall/winter 2021 collection virtually,” he tells begins.
Last July, HARRY HALIM launched its menswear spring/summer 2022 collection called “SEDUCE&DESTROY.” The collection was showcased virtually, notably featuring actress and model Asmara Abigail on the runway. Harry shares the inspiration behind the collection: “The collection is about diversity and genderless pieces where wearers can express themselves without fear of judgement; that each individual is unique with his or her individual differences.”
The pieces making up the SEDUCE&DESTROY collection are filled with contrasts in life – love and attraction, seduction, and the desire to destroy something that once mattered the most. The result is a line of genderless clothing which looks sassy in a lively colour palette, with motif plays and unexpected textures. The combination of masculine and feminine elements shows in every look, and the fusion of both result in strong characters. Seen in the collection are a black leather jacket with fringe on the back paired with a lace top, leather shorts and black high-heeled platform boots, a satin blazer with draped lace top, shorts and white high-heeled platform boots. There is also an ’80s influence with jewel tones and a metallic palette, as evident in the fuchsia bomber jacket with fringe and cut-out shorts, and electric blue leather corset with glitter pants and high-heeled platform boots. The collection also showcases wilderness expressions with animal print motifs. Harry admits that SEDUCE&DESTROY is the collection that means the most to him. “It’s actually a love story. It’s very personal and depends on how you see it.”
When asked about the creative process behind the collection, Harry explains: “I always start from everyday fashion items or things that I would wear for events or daily life and recreate the look by destroying the normality in the garment, exploring outside the traditional tailoring. It starts with a piece of fabric which I draped around the surface of the basic garment and it continues from there.”
Naturally, the question that follows was why Harry decided to go for a genderless collection. “Why not?” says asks in reply. “Well, we’ve seen women wearing suits or tuxedos, and we see it as normal because we’ve seen it all the time. But once we see a man wearing a kilt or heels, the majority of people start questioning whether they are too effeminate, right? And the genderfluid movement has been making a lot of progress in today’s fashion. So, we will have to become forward thinking, too.”
So, HARRY HALIM has expanded from designing for women, to creating menswear, and now it presents genderless design. In terms of ideas and creative process, does Harry find designing womenswear and menswear all that different? “To be honest, creating menswear is so much simpler than creating womenswear. I am enjoying doing menswear quite a bit more. There are tons of womenswear lines nowadays. I have seen them all. Nothing quite excites me anymore. Meanwhile, putting men in high-heeled thigh-high boots or a lace dress is so fresh and challenging!” Harry exclaims. Now the question is, how does Harry portray the HARRY HALIM woman and man? “Both have complex characters – at times autocratic, badass, fearless, at times romantic, understanding, fun, and above all, mysterious,” he describes.
“There are tons of womenswear lines nowadays. I have seen them all. Nothing quite excites me anymore. Meanwhile, putting men in high-heeled thigh-high boots or a lace dress is so fresh and challenging”
As Harry mentioned earlier, the move towards genderless fashion has been moving forward at a brisk pace. But what is his take on genderless clothing? Does he simply blur the norms that divide male and female clothing, or does he take the route of combining different aspects of gender-based clothing? “No, I didn’t blur out the norm,” Harry responds. “Well … kind of. If you notice carefully, all the male models, on the catwalk, they were still very masculine. Also, it was their first experience wearing high-heeled boots.”
Speaking of which, not only did the male models on his runway wear high-heeled boots, Harry himself is often seen rocking them on the photos he uploads to his Instagram account. “Actually, I have been wearing high-heeled boots since 15 years ago and then stopped for a while, but I’m still collecting them,” he remarks. “Only two years ago we started our own shoe line. I was thinking, why don’t I wear my own shoes?”
Listening to Harry’s response, yet another question comes to mind: Does he see fashion as a medium and a form of self-expression, or is it a statement? To that, Harry answers: “I think fashion is both statement and self-expression. It’s like a kind of magic within you.” He also defines self-expression as, “follow your inner moonlight. Don’t hide the madness.”
In our conversation with him two years ago, Harry said: “It’s important to have your own style, but you must also evolve.” We can see that Harry stays true to this statement. He keeps evolving and bringing something fresh and different in every collection. His collection used to be, in his words, “a lot of black, no touch of colours whatsoever.” But then he explored more colours, prints, new silhouettes, new shapes and details. It reflects in his spring/summer 2020 collection where he injected imaginative sensuality and added pop colours that resonates with summer such as fuchsia, neon blue and bright yellow. Harry also played with animal patterns in his Belladona fall/winter 2021 collection (a piece from this collection was notably worn by American singer Normani in her music video Wild Side) as well as in his SEDUCE&DESTROY collection.
We can’t help but wonder, what’s next from HARRY HALIM? “Something is coming up hopefully soon in September. I can’t spill it yet,” says Harry. About what he wants to achieve next, Harry notes: “No one can predict the future, just hope for the best and do our best. Of course, I’m thinking about opening a new studio boutique in New York.” Now that is certainly something to look forward to.