In each issue of HemAware, we spotlight people in the bleeding disorders community. Here, we talk to Christian Harris, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has severe hemophilia B. Harris created a collection of clothing inspired by hemophilia—both his experience of living with it as well as its history.
Why did you get interested in fashion?
Growing up, I couldn’t play sports, so I did a lot of painting and drawing as a kid. My interests grew in that direction. I find that I can explore all the things I love through the medium of fashion. For example, I’m a big history buff, and I can use my love of history to inspire what I create.
How did your bleeding disorder influence your fashion design?
That’s my thesis collection for getting my master’s degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). I knew my project needed to be intimate and that it had to be hemophilia-related, because hemophilia is my whole story. I had difficulties managing my hemophilia all through college and grad school because I wasn’t insured. I had to make that decision to choose to stay in school under those conditions and see it through.
Describe your thesis collection.
I knew I wanted this collection to be very conceptual and artistic. I wanted to create garments that were art first but that also happened to be wearable. I started looking at where hemophilia applied to fashion, and that took me to the Romanovs and pre-Revolutionary Russia. I started studying that period and pulling ideas from it, but I realized it wasn’t enough for what I wanted to do for the collection. So I started thinking about the ugly side of hemophilia that most people don’t know about. Like swelling in your joints and the problems that can cause. That gave the collection a different sense of emotion. For the actual garments in the collection, I exaggerated parts of the body that the garments make appear swollen. For example, I have a jacket where the shoulders are just enormous and the rest of the work is very constricted and tense. The combination of the Russian imperial family with this painful side of hemophilia became the inspiration behind the 11 looks for the collection.
How was it received?
Every year, SCAD hosts a fashion show. This year, there were about 100 collections eligible for the show, and I was one of the 29 who made it. As far as I know, I’m the first and only graduate from my campus to ever get into that show. They also showed the collection at a gala that was hosted by the established fashion designer Zac Posen. Only about 20 students were chosen to participate. My collection was one of them. It’s also been featured in national press, including WWD, Fashionista, Esquire and Elle.
What’s next for you?
I’m finishing my internship with fashion designer Azede Jean-Pierre. I’m getting ready to go back to Maryland, where I grew up. I have a few things I need to get done with the collection. The whole collection hasn’t actually been seen yet. I need to start working on the photo shoot for that.
How do you feel about this collection as a vehicle to raise awareness of bleeding disorders?
I’m very proud of how much interest there’s been in this collection because of the hemophilia connection. The national press was interested in the story because I have hemophilia, and that inspired the collection. But when you look at the garments, you don’t necessarily see that it was inspired by a disease. It can stand on its own. But when you get the backstory on it, it takes people on a journey.
Do you know an interesting individual we should profile in a future issue
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