Fearless Fashionista Henry Holland Talks T-Shirts, Trends and Ten Years at the Top
Henry Holland is one of the reasons you might add the word Great before Britain. From his Ramsbottom roots he’s taken the fashion world by storm, first bringing back the slogan T-shirt with a vengeance, before going on to use his bold, quirky ideas to imagineer designs for everyone from high-street retail giants to high-end outlets. His House of Holland brand has been trading for ten years and the brand is going from strength to strength, impressive in these uncertain trading times.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Henry recently, where he told us how his latest stylish catwalk collaboration with Vype came about, the trends we should all be looking out for soon and why he won’t be happy with the success of his brand till he’s able to buy Ralph Lauren’s ranch.
The MALESTROM: Tell us about your latest collaboration with Vype…
Henry Holland: So Vype got in touch with us early on in the season and since that day I’ve been a devoted vaper. I haven’t had a cigarette since. So I was fully won over, hook, line and sinker. Then we started to work on some accessories to accompany their Vype ePen 3, it’s becoming more and more popular and it fits in with our customer base and I think it was about us approaching some accessories that were really desirable and covetable and worked for our Spring/Summer collection that happened to fit the ePen 3, rather than trying to create something that looks like it was a vaping accessory. So that was what we did and we sent them down the catwalk as part of our collection in September.
TM: In that collection is a Neck Pouch with a wide lanyard. Are you the man that can make lanyards cool?
HH: Oh yeah. I mean, lanyards are very cool. I don’t know if you frequent East London, but basically, lanyards are ten a penny. I know they’re ten a penny in the city, but that’s kind of a different thing. I think everyone’s ready for a cool lanyard, if we can make bumbags cool collectively, I mean bumbags and shell suits are already cool, so surely lanyards have to be next?
TM: Do you feel pressure when having to come up with all these new designs? Or do you take it in your stride?
HH: Sometimes. I mean I don’t feel extra pressure, It’s always a high-pressure time, but that’s what I thrive on really, creating things and making things. I’ve so many ideas it’s nice to have an outlet to execute them. I think it adds a layer of stress sometimes when your working with a big company and you have to work within certain brand guidelines and keep everyone happy and make sure that it’s got the right balance of us and our brand and their guidelines. But I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly noticeable added stress. Nothing I can’t handle.
TM: What’s your primary fashion ethos?
HH: For me, I’ve just always tried to stay really authentic to what I started the brand as, which is something that was really playful and provocative and fun and made people feel that way when they bought into the brand at whatever level that might be. Whether they buy a piece of clothing, come to an event or a show it’s always about them leaving with that feel good factor and that confidence that’s I’ve always found fashion gives me.
TM: You’ve never necessarily been about tailoring or fitted cuts have you?
HH: When I describe our clothes and our collections I usually use personality traits and I think if people recognise my clothes cause they have a certain personality and certain attributes then I find that really exciting. I think as we’ve gone on we’ve developed different signatures in different areas, It’s not just about shiny happy people, fun, silly clothes that don’t need to take themselves too seriously.
I think as we’ve grown as a business and developed as a brand, we’ve been around ten years now, so I think we’ve definitely developed from being just a slogan T-shirt into a fully fledged label that’s got its own DNA. So I think that comes in different shapes and forms. but our aesthetic has never been about a specific, like you say, tailoring or embellishment. It’s very much about a personality and an attitude, which I think is great cause it means we can translate the brand into so many different price brackets and to so many different audiences and territories as well.
TM: How close are you to achieving your ambition of becoming a huge lifestyle brand? Are you close to your dream?
HH: No, never. Till I live next door to Ralph Lauren, in fact until I buy the Lauren ranch and everything in my house is branded then I’m nowhere near. No, the thing that I love about what I do is that I mess it up near enough every day and you learn from that and never get to a point where it’s stagnant and stale because it’s so changeable. The outside world changes so fast that we’ve had to become a completely different business from the one we were when we started, that keeps it interesting and it also keeps you quite junior in your own field, you never become an expert, because the minute you’re an expert in a certain period of time, the customer base has moved on to something completely different and your the novice again. I think having to react and evolve with the world around you is what keeps it exciting. Frustrating but exciting (laughs).
TM: Even in ten or so years you must have seen the fashion industry change so much?
HH: I think the speed of the change in the last ten years has probably been quicker than the last hundred. The digital revolution and social media have been probably some of the biggest changes to the industry as a whole, like the globalisation of the business thanks to the internet. You don’t work with Japan or China any different than you work with America, it’s a global business for all to see, you can’t sell your products at different prices in different areas of the world, they see the catwalk whether you like it or not. So it’s not like you can show something and deliver something quite subdued, people want things that they’ve seen in the media in the press and on social media, so it’s massively changed.
TM: Where do you draw your inspiration from? Is it everyday life? Music? Art?
HH: It’s usually stories, like telling stories. London’s a huge source of inspiration, but it’s the people that live there. The different cultures and the things you see on the street, the stories you can imagine they have to tell. I think I like to tell my life story through what I choose to wear, I like to tell people who I am, what I’m about and how I want to be treated by what I wear. So I find that process fascinating when looking at people.
TM: Do you mind dividing opinion with your work?
HH: No. I always say when people ask me to give advice for younger people trying to get into the industry, you need to be very clear on what it is you want to say and stay authentic to that, cause no one can ever criticise that. If you set out to create something that is one thing and someone criticises you for not being that thing then fair enough, but if someone criticises you for being that thing then it’s just not for them. It’s a very subjective medium, like art, not everyone likes the same things, thank God, and nobody dresses the same, thank God. There’s never going to be one garment, apart from maybe blue jeans, that everybody in the world is going to like.
TM: Are there any parts of your collections you’ve done in the past where you think, that was a mistake?
HH: I mean, there are whole collections I’d rather never look at again because I wasn’t particularly in a great place in my personal life. In this career, you put a piece of yourself in every single garment, in every collection and if you’re in a bad way then the clothes tend to come out the same. I always get frustrated with musicians that say they create their best work out of heartache, I think because of what my brand is about, if we’re not having fun making it, it really shows.
TM: So it sort of has parallels with music, but you’re more about creating when feeling joy rather than introspective?
HH: Imagine coming to work and trying to make things joyful, when all you want to do is go and lie in a dark room, it’s really difficult (laughs).
TM: Absolutely. How exciting is it to be a major part of the British fashion scene right now?
HH: Very exciting. I think London is the best fashion city that there is in the world, the most eclectic, the most interesting, the one that drives everything forward. I think it’s really hard to characterise British fashion as it is so eclectic, but also because of the talent and the far-reaching people we attract to the city means that we create an amazingly diverse collection of ideas and it’s not just a particular aesthetic that can be identified to London, because there are so many people that live there.
TM: What’s the one item of apparel or accessory you couldn’t go without?
HH: A great coat. Because living in England all you ever wear is a coat, it’s all anyone ever sees. So I tend to spend Autumn, in fact all year round buying loads and loads of jackets because it’s all about that first impression, the first thing people see.
TM: Are Autumn/Winter your favourite seasons because there are more options?
HH: Yes. I’m a big layerer.
TM: Crystal ball out. What are we going to see in terms of upcoming trends?
HH: For me really excitingly, neon is a big trend. It is right now and I don’t see it going anywhere for next season, which is really exciting because I love colour and I love playing with mixes of colour at different levels. I still think sportswear and athletic leisure just isn’t going anywhere, because it’s how people want to dress these days, for comfort and function. Gone are the days of people dressing for social standing in the same way, because they’d rather express themselves in their everyday clothes, and not just for event dressing, which I think is the democratisation of the whole thing.
TM: What’s your favourite colour combo?
HH: In my work, I really like clashing colours, so pops of neon then anchoring them with something more subdued, like navy blues and khakis. But then in my own wardrobe I’m actually quite matchy-matchy, partly because I can’t be arsed to think about it.
TM: Is there one piece of fashion advice you can give us from your time in the industry?
HH: I think it would be similar to what I said earlier about making sure you’re staying true to who you are and how you feel and what you’re about. Always use fashion for yourself, I think it’s a very personal thing and I think it has a huge power to change the way that you feel and change the way you’re perceived by other people, so always make sure you’re dressing in a way that makes you feel your best and never dress for anyone else.
Henry Holland has collaborated with Vype to create a capsule collection of style-led vaping accessories for the launch of the new Vype ePen3. The House of Holland x Vype collection and limited edition ePen 3 designs are available at www.govype.com