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Wesley Harriott's 'otherworldly strength' in womenswear

When London designer Ricky Wesley Harriott launched his womenswear brand in 2016, he had no idea that US singer Lady Gaga would be sporting Wesley Harriott designs just one year later.

He has since won Asos’s 2018 Fashion Discovery competition, which came with £50,000 of investment, one-to-one mentoring and “at least” two selling seasons on the platform.

The Tottenham native’s collections are inspired by the women who have shaped his past – including his mother – and the power, individuality and “gender-defying nature” of “dominant” females.

27 wesley harriott

The London College of Fashion graduate aims to “break down societal ideals of women and replace them with strong ideals usually given to men”. This is reflected in his utilitarian designs, which feature masculine tailoring, loose silhouettes and boxy shapes, and a futuristic edge.

Harriott researches, designs and makes all garments, which he does alongside his day job teaching fashion at the Big Creative Academy in Walthamstow, east London. He devotes his evenings to Wesley Harriott.

Spring 20 wholesale prices range from £60 for a tank top to £580 for a trench coat.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

I tend to check my emails, then watch [ITV programme] Lorraine with a coffee. I have to start my morning with Lorraine Kelly!

What was your first job?

I worked as a Saturday boy at a local hairdresser when I was 13 and hated it. I did learn how to make the best cup of tea, though.

How would you describe the brand in one sentence?

A love letter to every woman who has shown me otherworldly levels of strength.

What’s your coffee (or tea) order?

Black coffee, extra strong, no sugar.

Where are your favourite places to shop?

Dover Street Market – it’s been my place of escape ever since I was a teenager. I find it so inspiring and exciting.

Last fashion purchase? Why did it catch your eye?

A pair of motocross pants from the Supreme x Honda x Fox Racing collection. They gave me a Bosozoku energy and I have always wanted to be in a Bosozoku gang [Japanese motorcycle gang].

Emails or phone calls?

Emails for business, phone calls for close friends.

Most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?

Be patient and ignore what others around you are doing.

What would be your ideal office/meeting space?

I’ve never considered my ideal meeting place, as I’m always working in different places. I guess it would depend on who I’m meeting.

What’s your favourite part of the creative process?

Researching – I love starting with really broad ideas before incorporating into my designs everything that I’m into at the time. The first moments are the best, as that’s when I think without limitations.

What has been your proudest moment since launching/joining the company?

Without a doubt being part of the [fashion social platform] VFiles Runway show in September. I’ve applied every year since launching Wesley Harriott, so it was dream come true. I also loved designing pieces for [US singer] Solange [Knowles’] tour “Witness!” – she’s a great muse to me, so that blew my mind.

What’s the last book you read?

The biography Yohji Yamamoto: My Dear Bomb by Ai Mitsuda.

Last holiday?

I went to Tokyo last year for my 30th. I want to move there ASAP.

Who in the fashion/retail industry inspires you?

I have a lot of respect for so many designers, but I have a longstanding, deep-rooted love for Yohji Yamamoto and [Comme des Garçons founder] Rei Kawakubo, Helmut Lang and Miuccia Prada.

What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion today?

Diversity. Fashion is still a very exclusive industry. So much talent gets ignored because of the sector’s racist, elitist ignorance.

One piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Trust your instincts.

Who do you turn to when you need advice?

My mother and my best friend.

What would we find you doing at the weekend?

I try to do very little at the weekend unless I have a super-crazy deadline. I love playing video games, and visiting friends and family. Making clothes is my everything, but the fashion industry is so consuming it’s important to get out of the rabbit hole when you have time. I have to enjoy life outside of my brand, too.

What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?

I’m taking each day as it comes, but growing Wesley Harriott and creating more pieces. It really is my everything, so being able to build the brand means the world to me.

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