“By looking at fashion you can see where things are going politically. ” – Harley Weir
TH: What is it that you like and what is it that you don’t like about working in fashion?
HW: Most of my work at CSM had been about the female gaze, trying to figure out what my desire was as a woman, finding my place. I think fashion gave me a really interesting space to work through the stereotypes of women. It really felt like a female’s world in a way, even though it wasn’t exactly. The idea of being a woman, the idea of dressing up. When I was a child I loved dressing up, that transformation, how the clothes dictate the character. If I hadn’t been an artist, I would have been maybe an actress, or some kind of weird performer, I love to change characters. That idea was always really interesting for me: trying to understand a woman through fashion. It’s a visual subject, and we don’t realise how much of an impact it has on the nation. By looking at fashion you can see where things are going politically. I think it’s really important and I’m happy to have been a part of some of the more positive aspects of that. For me, that was a way of changing society. Little by little, nothing major. I wouldn’t say I have done anything radical, but just having a different point of view is important.
The bad side of the industry is the pollution. And so many people. So many people… If there’s money in anything, it’s always corrupt and fucked, so there isn’t anything like a clean luxury profession, right? The luxury business is corrupt, very corrupt. When you look at some of the factories…. Luxury businesses at least haven’t had any horrendous things come out but you know, H&M, Zara, I wouldn’t work for them because of the damage they do to the environment. I have in the past, a long time ago, but I wouldn’t work for them again until they push things forward, to make things right as fast as they need to. You know, they’re not paying their workers at all.
TH: What if H&M said to you, but we have our ‘conscious’ range?
HW: They’ve asked me that. I wouldn’t work with them until everything was not the way it currently is. The clothes they make are ready to fall apart. I know that people don’t have money to spend on things but I’ve lived my whole life buying vintage clothes and I look fucking awesome. We don’t need it! I know that’s the argument everyone makes, that not everyone can afford it. But go to a fucking charity shop and get vintage H&M. I can’t really talk though, because I’m very privileged at this point and I’ve worked with these brands in the past, but before I wasn’t fully aware of what was going on.
TH: There wasn’t that same awareness all that time ago. There just wasn’t.
HW: I didn’t know where anything came from. I don’t buy first-hand fashion. It does feel bad to be a part of fashion when you’re not even a part of fashion yourself. I have to say I’ve bought some new things since this lockdown. Up and coming designers, I feel like it’s good to support them. I collect Jean Paul Gaultier and Issey Miyake. I usually always buy vintage stuff. I went to Issey Miyake a few days ago. I bought some first-hand stuff from the shop. I have a plastic bag that I wash them in because they’re quite bad for the environment due to the little bits of microplastic they have, but you can buy these bags to wash them in.
TH Do you enjoy creating fashion imagery? Or is it the only way for a photographer to make money?
HW: A lot of the time I love it. Depends on the group of people you’re with. Sometimes it’s so fun. You know, when you really get on with a stylist. Because when you really get on with the stylist – creatively it’s like magic.
TH: Would you have ever wanted to be a stylist if you love clothes and the sense of character so much?
HW: No. I’m not organised enough. I have to say as I get older I hope I can wear all the ridiculous things I have in my closet because I always end up just wearing jeans I can bend down in for work. Not even jeans, they’re too uncomfortable. I wear gross unflattering cargo trousers.
TH: How would you describe your style as an artist?
HW: Eclectic. I would say it was a bit violent. But I don’t think anyone sees any of my personal work that much.
TH: Why don’t we see it? Why don’t you put it out there?
HW: I will at some point. But it’s not the kind of thing people like. Everything is a lot scarier. I think what you see with my fashion is very watered down. Nice, money, commercial.
“All of my works that you’ve seen in magazines are a collaboration between me, someone else, the models, and the magazine. So that’s what I’m prepared to share with people I don’t know very well.” – Harley Weir
TH: It’s very sensual. You know, I’ve always been such a lover of when your personal work and when still life comes into an editorial that you’re doing. I’ll never forget the half-eaten peach on the stick and things like that.
HW: But those rules are made in the studio of the fashion shoot. It’s different, I’m being watched you know.
TH: True, but, I know I would be ripping out the page that had the peach on the stick as opposed to the page next to it which is a shot of a wonderfully styled model by Vanessa Reid. The fact that it was combined together and that there was always that space in a lot of your editorials, at least within the independent magazines… That always got me excited.
HW: Yeah, it was nice. Actually, Pop [Magazine] is great for that. They allow you to have these extra pages.
TH: I like the fact that you answered as actually, your inner true style being far more violent.
HW: I think it is. All of my works that you’ve seen in magazines are a collaboration between me, someone else, the models, and the magazine. So that’s what I’m prepared to share with people I don’t know very well.
“Image has changed so much now, it’s not precious anymore. ” – Harley Weir