“Playful. Bold. Arresting. Graphic. Colourful.” Henry Holland is describing his fashion designs, but he could equally be outlining his famous sense of humour (“What do you call a fly with no wings?” he jests “A walk!”). For a man who works with his hands, Henry Holland has a way with words. His articulate acrobatics and razor sharp wit are famous amongst his fans. It’s no wonder, given that he gained a degree in journalism from London School of Fashion and began his career as a music writer at cult music magazine Smash Hits. He even maintains he would be a writer if he weren’t designing clothes. Words launched his design career too; he exploded onto the scene in 2006 with headline grabbing t-shirts emblazoned with slogans such as “Uhu Gareth Pugh” and “Get yer freak on Giles Deacon”.
Cut to today and the House of Holland show is one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures at London Fashion Week. For his AW15 collection, Holland showed a collection that riffed on classic English archetypes, borrowing from establishment codes (think oversized gingham check check and silk neck scarves) as well as futuristic worlds. “Films played a large part too, from the Fifth Element to Blade Runner. I was looking at other interpretations of other future metropolises and the women that inhabit them. I feel like there is a very British humour to my work and it’s something I try to maintain.”
“London as a city is a hugely inspiring space, nowhere else is as diverse, fast moving or exciting”
Metropolises, city life, and the girls that live, work and party in them are a constant source of inspiration to Holland who is often spotted out after hours with pals Daisy Lowe and Pixie Geldof. “London as a city is a hugely inspiring space, nowhere else is as diverse, fast moving or exciting and nowhere has such an embedded history of street-culture as much as high fashion. Also we have the best colleges in the world that draw talent from all over the globe.”
He works from a big open plan office in London Fields in east London, with his team of 25. “There lots of light and space,” he says, “We listen to all sorts – the radio, fun playlists on a Friday afternoon…the last record I downloaded was Fetty Wap’s Trap Queen.” Music is a great passion of Holland’s and tracks on his AW15 soundtrack included songs by FKA Twigs and Mark Ronson. “I chose a lot of the songs myself but the Misshapes mixed it and made suggestions too. We had some trippy sounds, heavy base and finished with Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars to get everyone dancing.”
His clothes – often loaded with bright colours, pattern and texture such as faux fur – are synonymous with fun. “I try to make clothes that make people feel a certain way and bring a smile to their face,” he says. “My clothes instill confidence, passion and joy. As a man designing clothes for women, I am constantly inspired by the women around me; friends, colleague, family members.” He continues, letting one thought flow into the next: “Individuality” he says, is what inspires him. “Interpreting fashion with a unique eye is what creates a style icon. Anyone with a million pounds in the bank can be fashionable!”
So what does it take to make it? “My work ethic and self-belief. It was instilled in me by my parents who have always taught me anything is possible if you work hard enough.” He continues, honing in on aspiring designers: “The important thing is to discover what you want to say through your work, making sure that it has a unique take on things and always stay true to that. Fashions come and go but maintaining a strong message will always be important.”