Charles Harbison Shows Respect to Strong Women with His New Collection

Charles Harbison Shows Respect to Strong Women with His New Collection

12.11.2021 Off By manager_1

six women wearing white pants posing

Charles Harbison was raised in a family of powerful matriarchs who loved fashion and encouraged them to wear it. His inspiration is his true heritage. Harbison launched his brand’s eponymous line, which consists of sleek eveningwear and brightly tailored pieces. However, Harbison moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and decided to put the brand on hold. The change in scenery and the shift to a more sustainable lifestyle only strengthened the ties between Harbison’s sense of community, work and life. He’s now back with Banana Republic X Harbison – a limited-edition line that pays homage to the Black women who shaped his style.

“About one year ago Harlem’s Fashion Row issued a call to designers for sustainable capsule collections with Banana Republic. Although I don’t like competitions, I was able to feel confident about this collaboration because I am able to relate to the brand personally.” Harbison tells how this collaboration came about. “In the end it was worth it,” Harbison says. The 18-piece capsule combines the Banana Republic’s classic aesthetic with a Harbison-style twist. The collection, “Legacy of Joy,” was first shown alongside Harbison Studio pieces during Harlem Fashion Row’s September 2021 show.

Harbison was inspired by his family and community to create the collection. Harbison grew up in North Carolina where his grandmother and mother worked as factory knitters and tool factory workers. In stark contrast to their workweek uniforms Harbison also witnessed his grandmother and mother transform into fashion plates on weekends. Harbison says, “The women in our family were my first examples and inspiration for fashion. It’s been so important to my process since those were my earliest images.” These were my first inspirations. My mother was elegant and I strive to be like her. I want to be as elegant and stylish as my grandmother also.” The designer studied art and painting at North Carolina State University’s College of Design before going to Central Asia to study textiles for one year.

Harbison began his training at Parsons, and then went on to work for internationally renowned brands such as Michael Kors or Billy Reid. His eponymous brand was launched in 2013. It incorporated minimalism and structure into pieces that were worn by Beyonce, former First Lady Michelle Obama and others. Harbison’s vision returned to runway after a five year hiatus.

Harlem’s Fashion Row has been bringing more Black and Brown designers into fashion’s folds for over a decade. Harbison is familiar with the power and experience of Brandice Daniel and Harlem’s Fashion Row. He says, “She’s been a friend for seven years.” “I trust her intention and integrity and see it working for our mutual benefit. We are entitled to products that are both expansive and exceptional.”

The Runway Returns

Harbison says that runways are always interesting because they allow you to see the story behind a collection in a kinetic manner. Harbison said, “We live in clothes. We walk in clothes. Clothes come alive on bodies in motion.” He returned to work with an optimistic outlook after all the time he had been away. “It was great to show my main collection as well as this collaboration, because so many of the things the collab represents and my brand are still top of mind.”

Inclusion is a priority for Harbison, which has shaped every aspect of his work. Harbison’s imagery features different ages, hair textures and figures. His clothing can be worn up to 20 inches. Harbison describes his 15-year-long career as “I’ve witnessed the extent of inequity, and the lack of representation.” “Representation is not only important from a marketing perspective. It is important that the products be as varied as the people who drive this industry forward. This includes customers, craft people, models and owners, designers and marketers.”

Harbison again attributes his passion for diversity and dedication to it to the women with whom he grew up. Harbison says that the women he grew up with represented gender equality in that they were strong, hardworking women who transformed into feminine versions of themselves. “They represented everything a person can be in the world, and also how they could move around the world. They were positive about body diversity and body positivity because they valued their bodies and wanted to show it. It’s amazing how much of our cultural language is still being used today, which I was able to see in real-time early in my career.”

To The Future

Harbison was interested in the transition towards more comfortable clothing over the past year when he designed his Banana Republic collaboration. He says, “The best thing about American sportswear has been that it’s always been about taking luxurious and making it work for active people.” “It is important to me that every design has duality. … In the last couple of years of difficulties, we have become much more focused on comfort and that now gets reflected in my product design.” Harbison believes it’s a shift towards sustainability not only ecologically but also to sustain our personal lives, “where the items that are purchased are making our lives easier and better.”

Responsible practices are an integral part of the brand’s small business model. He explains that even though we don’t create organic or naturally derived fabric, we use most of what is already available in the world. This is a more responsible choice than using more raw materials. “My latest Harbison collection has a lot of vintage buttons and deadstock. There’s no compromise in quality or beauty.”

Harbison partners with Textile Exchange, which is creating completely circular approaches to fabric and textile recycling. He explains that the method allows you to take old garments and reduce them down to their fiber level. Then, you can reconfigure them. It’s an exciting, fully circular process within the industry. “We’re agile, we care and fabric was my first love before fashion.” This is how Harbison approached it and we were also able to discuss those things with the Banana Republic partnership.

What’s next for Harbison All it comes down to is growth. He says, “It’s something I’m addicted to — growing as an individual, growing Harbison’s team, growing the code of products we can design and distribute in the world, growing my collaborators. I love growth. I believe in myself, the team, and all that we stand for. I’ve been in this business for a while, so I’m thankful to be here where there’s a new type of attention on the brand.” Harbison is placing his trust in himself and his team for 2022. You should, too.