Henry Holland talks famous friends, slogan tees and 10 year anniversaries

Henry Holland at his SS17 show [Photo: Getty]

In 2006, Henry Holland burst onto the scene with a set of cheeky tees. His ‘Fashion Groupies’ t-shirts featured rhymes referencing London’s buzziest designers: “get your freak on Giles Deacon” being a personal favourite.

On Saturday, House of Holland celebrated its tenth anniversary with a whole new army of slogan shirts. Mentioning the capital’s latest design talent (Molly Goddard, Ashley Williams and co) as well as industry models bearing the last name Hadid and Jenner, Holland’s SS17 finale was made for Instagram.

House of Holland’s infamous slogan tees updated for 2016 [Photo: Getty]

“I have a rule of thumb with the slogans,” Henry tells us. “If it takes more than five minutes to come up with one, I won’t do it. They have to be quick, witty and roll off the tongue.”

It’s this sense of humour that has earned House of Holland worldwide acclaim. Since his first proper show, sponsored by Fashion East, Henry’s aesthetic has never wavered. Eclectic prints and designs that don’t take themselves too seriously make up his oeuvre with a successful line of tights, sunglasses and bags still growing from strength to strength.

The rest of his SS17 collection, for instance, also featured Holland’s usual boldness with gingham and oversized sequins dominating the striking show. “Fashion Week is always so exhilarating. It’s really hard to beat. Our first ever show was a key moment for me because I realised I could turn this into more than just a line of t-shirts,” he recalls.  

Alexa Chung and Pixie Geldof at House of Holland’s SS17 show [Photo: Getty]

His very own fashion groupies (read: friends) certainly helped. These are no ordinary fans, however, for Holland’s tight-knit friendship group consists of none other than the crème de la crème of London Fashion Week celebrities. Alexa Chung, Daisy Lowe, Pixie Geldof and Nick Grimshaw have all been longtime supporters of Holland, turning up to his shows year on year and wearing his designs to countless events.

So what’s it really like having your work shown to millions by your pals? Holland doesn’t mince his words: “It’s helped me but I’m not an idiot. If someone famous wears my clothes or attends my show, there’s attention on a different level. In some ways, it’s slightly hindered me because certain people see it as an easy ride, you know, the fact that I can get press from dressing my friends. But there’s an authenticity to my relationships. People can see that those are real friendships; it just so happens my friends are well-known.”   

It would be unfair to say Holland rides on the coattails of others. After all, he’s not one to shy away from anything whether that’s sounding off on industry issues or being among the first to pioneer new sales concepts.

Following in the footsteps of Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger and Tom Ford (and after the success of previous trials), all of the t-shirts from House of Holland’s SS17 show were immediately available to buy as soon as the last model left the runway.

“The t-shirts were about celebrating this time ten years ago. I felt like it should be something that’s available now rather than in a few months’ time,” Henry comments. “People are a lot more au fait with the ‘see now, buy now’ concept and I think the industry is evolving to accommodate that. Fashion shows are a much more consumer-facing event now than they were when I started so getting your customer excited and being able to deliver straight away is really important.”

Holland collaborated with BRITA in a bid to make Fashion Week more sustainable [Photo: BRITA]

Along with being partially shoppable, his recent show delved into a more sustainable feel. With the aim of making Fashion Week plastic water bottle free, Holland partnered with BRITA on an environmentally-friendly bottle for the front row. 

At a time when designers are criticised for being wasteful, Henry has some useful words: “There’s an ongoing conversation in the industry as to how we can continue to be creative and ethical at the same time. But it’s not an easy process; it’s a gradual one. It’s quite difficult to do an about turn and change your ways of working but it’s also easy to start implementing systems bit by bit. We want to do as much as we can.”    

The SS17 casting board [Photo: BRITA]

When asked about another of fashion’s hot topics - diversity on the catwalk - Holland agrees that “it’s important, for sure.” His shows have always used a range of ethnicities (though just like 99% of the industry, size variety is still sorely lacking).

For Henry, casting is about individuality first and foremost. “It’s about the models and who they are shining through,” he states. “This season, we planned to have a really uniform look but when I met the girls, I didn’t care about that. I care about their personality, their sense of fun and playfulness and most of all, that they’re strong enough to carry my clothes off.”

House of Holland’s graphic SS17 collection [Photo: BRITA]

So does the decade-long designer have any life lessons for aspiring creatives? “I’m still learning things every single day. I didn’t study fashion so my entire training has been on the job. Getting the brand to where it is today has been a really long process but that’s why I love what I do. No two days are the same and you know, I never get to a point where I feel like I know what I’m doing,” he laughs.

As for the next ten years? Well, Henry can’t even fathom it: “If you’d have told me ten years ago that I would still be doing this, I think I would have laughed in your face.”

But he does have one final note for anyone to heed, fashion industry or otherwise. “It’s important to not put too much expectation on yourself. Just take it as it comes.”

Now that’s a real pearl of wisdom.

Henry’s House of Holland SS17 show at London Fashion Week was single use plastic water bottle free this year, in collaboration with BRITA.  

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