In conversation, Henry Holland mentions words like “fun” or “luck” far more than other London-based designers of his age tend to. Not for him the role of tortured artist then, but he’s certainly no airhead either.
His work ethic would surely leave many wilting in its wake. The House of Holland label, like it or lump it, is a very modern fashion phenomenon; surviving and growing way beyond his or anyone else’s initial expectations and now managing to cleverly nod to high fashion and the high street, while winking at the giddy heights of mainstream celebrity, all at once. Encompassing clothing, shoes, eyewear, accessories and, soon, various body care lotions and potions as well, the Lancashire-born 29-year-old’s oeuvre now veers ever closer to full-blown lifestyle brand. Hence, seasoned fashion hacks earnestly review the mainline catwalk shows, Heat magazine paps him when he’s out partying in the East or West End of London with famous long-term mates including Agyness Deyn, British stores like Debenhams tout his H by Holland line to middle England trendies, and teenagers sometimes even scream out his name, as though hailing a favourite pop star, when they spot him in the street. “Yeah, I can’t go into Topshop during half-term!” he admits, laughing at his own fandemonium.
With his trademark quiff, skinny trousers and cheeky grin, Holland is a flamboyant and instantly recognisable ambassador for his work: the perfect upbeat charmer to cater for the wardrobes of today’s Facebook generation. Remarkably, though, he has no fashion design qualifications. Ten years ago, Holland was studying journalism at London College of Printing, before interning at Emap’s now-defunct, rather hilarious teen gossip magazine, Sneak, where he eventually bagged a job on the fashion desk. After this, he became fashion editor at Smash Hits, then Bliss, and there spent his days cobbling together the obligatory spreads of celebrity focused style, fashioned for Primark budgets.
By 2006, in his spare time, he’d designed some t-shirts for a laugh, adorned with satirical slogans about fashion designers, the most famous proto-Holland creations being, DO ME DAILY CHRISTOPHER BAILEY, or UHU GARETH PUGH and CAUSE ME PAIN HEDI SLIMANE. These took off big time (and were subsequently ripped-off by high street chains), whirling him into areas of the international fashion world about which he then knew little, though has since become more than familiar. Henry recalls, “I remember going to see the buying director for Barneys with a carrier bag full of t-shirt samples. I had no idea of the magnitude of what I was doing. She called in the whole buying team and I just pulled out the t-shirts one by one… they placed an order for, like, thousands of them. I didn’t really compute it properly. I mean, now I’d be petrified, but I was blissfully ignorant which made things much more fun and organic.”
In the aftermath of that first flush of success, some critics reckoned Holland would be a one-season wonder swiftly heading down the pan. He had other ideas. “The reason why I started a label, was because in one of the reviews of my first show, from style.com, there was a line that said, ‘It’s all very good and fun but the joke will only last five minutes, so if Holland wants to carry on doing this, he’ll have to think of something else.’ That, for me, was my real turning point – it spurred me on. So the next season we launched dresses, swimwear, denim, jewellery, handbags, eyewear.”
Read more of our exclusive interview and Thriving Brits feature in Issue Two of The Hunger, on sale now.
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See more of House of Holland’s collection on their website.