Vivienne Westwood’s show opened Shanghai Fashion Week and instantly made international headlines. As Creative Director of her team, David Reid was instrumental in creating a vision for the show.
With the proportions of a high fashion male model, David’s graceful hands paint dreams in the air as his soft throaty voice has you wafting into a world where the gods of fashion reside.
Ever humble, David would never live in New York, London, or Milan – though he could if he chose to. After working a star-studded international show, David Reid loves nothing more than returning to his home in Canberra ‘I love Canberra.’ He purrs ‘it’s perfect.’
David says his experience with Shanghai Fashion Week was ‘way out of this world’ and his career highlight. ‘Vivienne Westwood is very lovely and very eccentric. You know when you meet people and you can tell they’re artists, they’re just different? She’s got that vibe about her.’ Admittedly David has that vibe about him too.
‘Vivienne walked up to me and asked what I thought of the whole thing; I told her I thought it was a bit crazy. The only reply she gave was “I don’t like all these buildings. They’re too grey.”’
Surreal and bazaar, like a Chinese movie without the subtitles, David paints a fantastic picture of what the runway show was like from backstage looking out:
‘It was just the most magnificent, wacked-out, crazy, circus parade,’ David says. ‘The show was a retrospective of all her dresses throughout her history, so it wasn’t just the current season, it was right back to when she first started. Each model came out with a different era of fashion, a different style.’
‘Some of the stuff was amazing. I don’t know how to describe it; it was like mixing Alice in Wonderland with a bit of acid, with a bit of psychedelic punk rock; with a bit of … I don’t know. She’d taken from every popular fashion theme and stuck it all together, but in such a precise way it just rocked.’
Being appointed Creative Director of a Vivienne Westwood show was worlds away from his humble beginnings designing anonymously for chain stores at a Sydney knitting mill. Indeed, David Reid has changed faces in more than one way and on more than one occasion.
David had his own seamstress, his own patternmaker, and a steady job where he could put his talent and creativity to amazing use – a pretty sweet gig for a young creative just starting out in the tough world of fashion.
But David was restless. He was agitated. And he was fed up with an industry that wasn’t living up to his expectations.
‘I got really over it. I was like, nope, this is not good enough. It wasn’t what I had decided fashion was,’ and with that, he kissed it all good-bye.
Like most creatives, changing direction was not unusual behavior for David. As a young student, just two weeks before graduating, he left CIT’s fashion program in a fit of rage. He struggled with being dictated to and having his artistic expression squashed by teachers who didn’t understand his vision.
This story could easily have ended here – with David abandoning his creative dreams for a cubicle job that paid the bills, but he was committed to finding the perfect expression for his artistic talents.
‘I managed to jump straight into a job in cosmetics because I was talkative, and lucky…I jumped from industry to industry and learned as I went. It was sink or swim,’ he states matter-of-factly.
David fell headfirst into his career in makeup, working his way up the ladder, fine-tuning his skills and leveraging his ingrained talent into job after high-profile job. He worked for major cosmetics houses and was ‘blown away’ working his first Australian Fashion Week for M.A.C. (Makeup Art Cosmetics). David even sold makeup on the TV Shopping Network.
Film producer Leigh Gow eventually spotted David’s talent and flew him to a secret location in Queensland’s Sanctuary Cove. David created the makeup looks for Gow’s star-studded wedding to Asian Supermodel Shu Pei Qin. The event was more like a film production than a wedding, and was featured in Vogue Australia. It was a fairytale come true for a man who once threw away a good career to forge his own path.
‘I just felt really lucky,’ David humbly admits ‘Me. David. Nobody David, gets invited to do this?’ the look of awe still stuck on his perfectly chiselled face.
It took some time for David to find his creative groove, but today, David is an internationally acclaimed makeup artist. He has done makeup for Gene Simmons, Cate Blanchet and Shu Pei Qin – the face of Vera Wang. He has worked on numerous Fashion Weeks with the industries top labels. David is an undisputed industry superstar.
David believes many artists are convinced it’s tough to gain recognition in Canberra, so they leave for greener pastures. But as he has demonstrated, you can be in demand and still use Canberra as your base.
‘The beauty of most creative industries is that it’s not a 9 to 5 gig and it’s not uncommon for big name projects to call in creative talent from around the globe. The Internet has made working remotely and marketing yourself to a worldwide audience not only possible but has created a total shift in how working is perceived,’ David says. ‘There are people here who are ambitious and want to be in creative industries, talented jewels no one has ever heard about.’
‘I look at myself and I know how much talent I’ve got. Yet the other day, I discovered a 14-year-old boy who can do makeup just as well as I can. He belongs in fashion week. Canberra has people like that, children even, who are so talented.’
David’s advice for talented youth is: There’s nothing wrong with shaking up the system, turning away from the conventional, and going out on a limb with nothing but a gut feeling, as long as you love what you do. He encourages anyone with talent to keep changing faces until you find the perfect expression for your creative vision and to remember – There can be no great art without risk.