Interview: Who Is Henry Holland?

As we get hyped up for the launch of House of Holland’s collaboration with Habitat, we spoke to founder, Henry Holland, about his rise to fashion celebrity, having friends in high places and, of course, how it feels to be designing his first interiors collection.

Henry Holland

Hi Henry, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Henry, I’m 32, and I came from a small town about 40 mins outside Manchester called Ramsbottom. I came to university in London when I was 18 and studied Fashion Journalism. From there I moved into teen magazines working as a Fashion Editor. Whilst there I started making t-shirts as a side project…a kind of hobby that very quickly became my new job. I had absolutely no idea it would become so big; it was a creative outlet, something that I found really fun, almost a joke [laughs]. It escalated really quickly so I didn’t have a chance to think about things too much until I was asked to do a show at London Fashion Week and at that point I quit my job. I had about 6 weeks to produce it!

Agyness Deyn in green Henry Holland T-Shirt

‘Fashion Groupies’ modelled by Agyness Deyn

Were these the now infamous ‘Fashion Groupies’ t-shirts? [Ed: Henry had printed a range of t-shirts emblazoned with phrases such as Get Ur Freak On Giles Deacon’ and ‘Uhu Gareth Pugh’)

Yeah. Gareth Pugh wore a Giles Deacon one at the bow of his show and then Giles saw that and wore the Gareth Pugh one at his bow and that’s how everyone came to know about my t-shirts. It was never a calculated plan. Gareth was a mate of mine, hence why I put his name on one of my t-shirts. And he wore it at his show for no other reason than he’d been up all night finishing his collection and he had nothing else clean to wear. I think that’s why people responded to it; because it came from a fun place. My friendship with Agyness [Deyn, Henry’s best friend] and her meteoric rise in the modelling world helped me but it came from a genuine place – I’ve known her since we were 12, we lived together for 5 years. It’s much more of an industry nowadays. I get a lot of attention for my front row but it’s really important that the front row is made up of people I know personally, I would never pay anyone to sit in my front row!

girls in front row of the Henry Holland fashion show

Henry’s Frow

House of Holland was later founded and you seem to have a great team working with you, can you tell me a little about that?

I have always been uncomfortable with the term ‘designer’ to describe myself, just because I didn’t train as one, I didn’t do any kind of design at college at all. So I’ve always viewed what I do as a brand from day 1 and I think that’s what set us apart. I really think that’s why we’ve been able to build a licensing opportunity alongside our ready-to-wear business and we’ve been able to translate this across a lot of product categories. After showing my first collection of t-shirts, I came out wearing a tee saying ‘One Trick Pony’ as I wanted to say what I thought the critics could be saying before they had a chance. From there, we completely changed. My next show was about denim and dresses and sunglasses and handbags. The whole package. In a way, I recruited a lot of people around me to help me realise my vision, which is exactly how everyone in the industry works today, I just missed out the stage of being a struggling designer on a sewing machine.

So House of Holland is a collaboration of these people’s strengths?

I’ve always talked about the brand as a collaboration, as a ‘we’. It was about utilising the contacts around me. So, I’ve known Katie Hiller for years and approached her for feedback on a jewellery designer I was thinking of working with and she just said “well why don’t I do it?” A lot of things happened like that.

Where are House of Holland based?

We are in London Fields in Hackney. We were called an east London design house for a long time when I lived in Primrose Hill and the studio was in Soho – an automatic assumption. But we moved east about 5 years ago.

House of Holland as a brand feels very attainable. Is it part of the strategy to not be a part of the £3000 handbag brigade?

We’ve always wanted to create something that is inclusive and a world that people want to be a part of and can be a part of. We have stick-on nails for £3.99 and so you can be part of House of Holland very easily. We keep everything under £1000. We want to stay achievable and attainable for our customer base. There’s no point in having everything unaffordable to anyone under 30. If we did that we’d be ignoring our core customer base.

Model on the Henry Holland catwalk

Henry Holland and models

House of Holland, SS16

So who is the House of Holland customer?

She is between 14 and 30, a city girl, or longs to be a city girl, very fashion led, very expressive, quite bold, with a playful sense of humour. She definitely leads rather than follows and has a certain level of confidence in that respect. She loves fashion and uses it as an extension of her personality; a way of expressing herself, telling people who she is.

Why did you decide to work with Habitat?

For me Habitat is the first place that I felt like a grown up. Habitat has always been a part of my life; I used to live off Finchley Road so, when I was at university, I used to pop in and imagine what my home would look like when I could afford it. And that’s why when I started buying things from there I felt all grown up!

I feel Habitat has the same ideologies, aesthetics and visual tastes as House of Holland. In terms of price point and customer base I feel there’s a real synergy between the two brands. I just love any form of design and putting the House of Holland stamp onto a range of products, making them attainable to different people through different channels. To create things that make people happy when they get hold of them is basically why I do this; so whether that’s a t-shirt or a cushion it will still give the same amount of joy.

How have you found working on home furnishings as opposed to fashion?

I’ve loved the differences and the challenges – that’s why I love my job. There were certain parameters within the process that we had to work with, such as different fabrics and their safety specifications. In some ways it wasn’t a million miles away from working on clothing – I’m very print based, deciding on that first and matching it with the right silhouette. So it worked in a similar way with Habitat where they would provide guidance on shape and silhouette and I would inject the pattern. That became a very natural way of working together.

House of Holland x Habitat launches in May 2016. To be the first to see it, sign up here.

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