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Malcolm Harris, the Superhero of Style, Shares His Closet and Stories of Keith Haring (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

Posted: 11/10/2010 8:03 am

In his camouflage pants complete with a skirt that zips off and can be worn as a cape, Malcolm's clothes personify the superhero that he is. Unlike your average clothier, Malcolm has selflessly dedicated his career as a designer to creating a platform for a myriad of humanitarian causes. In addition, he has used his sense of style to demolish gender boundaries, open people's minds, and break down unconscious, exclusionary societal belief systems. For Malcolm, even a walk to the grocery store is a conscious journey, reflecting what he feels inspired to wear and express at that moment. Most recently, his look have been inspired by the provocative romance in Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.

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You might find him merely on a bodega run adorned in a flowing skirt with a train attached, paired with a leather jacket. He describes a lot of what he wears, including one of his favorite lace tops, as fragile and tough, just like he is. However for me, the only "tough" thing about him is the comfort he exudes in his fragility and his resilience against conformity. Few are as boundless in their ability to create and transform any run of the mill piece of material into something with the grace and drama of the Haute Couture of the 18th Century, all while using his look to retool society's boundaries between masculine and feminine. Malcolm creates a cape from a piece of fabric snipped from a channel Chanel dress and uses a piece of tulle around his neck to embellish a tee-shirt. He portrays a sacrosanct aura, personified not only in his ultra loving nature, but in his flowing, robe-like kaftans which lack an association to any brand. Though his clothing choices can be dramatic, his integrity and wide open spirit is quiet and forceful. Malcolm co-founded The Designers for Darfur and is now working with the Care.org, in conjunction with his brilliant, One Dress to end child marriages.

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At one point during the interview, I looked up in his closet and saw several pieces of designer luggage and boxes. When I asked about them, he mumbled, "that was from a past life" and skipped over my question. Later, during an unrelated moment he told me that he had decided to give a gift to himself. However, instead of buying something, this gift was to give away most of his designer clothes to the homeless over a recent Christmas. He recounted how inspiring it was for him to see people receive luxury clothes with no attachment to labels. He called it "pure fashion." It seems fitting that Malcolm was very close to graffiti legend and all around lover of people, Keith Haring, in the '80's. Keith had autographed the back of Malcolm's white leather jacket in his iconic, red infinite signature that is meant to denote the connection between all people. In reverence to his beloved friend, Malcolm hand-embroidered red yarn over the signature in order to ensure it's longevity. In fact, Malcolm is always carrying on Keith's message. When he is feeling at all threatened by anyone's preconceived notions regarding ethnicity, class and sex, he answers by making one of his most daring, guerilla-like fashion statements, by wearing a guerilla mask to sit alone at a restaurant or walk down the street. Style is an art and like all art should serve to unite. Malcolm Harris: 2010's caped crusader?

"Keith [Haring] was one of those guys that believed we should all love each other. He never looked at black, white, Chinese, red, green, whatever; he just saw the humanity in all of us. That we all wanted one thing, and that was to be happy." Malcolm Harris

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