We talk “It” girls, inspiration and the future of fashion with Henry Holland – British designer and founder of his own fashion house, House of Holland.
You’re always doing something bold and colourful for your collections. Where does your love of colour and prints come from?
We try and infuse personality into the clothes we create, and I think that colourful, bold aesthetic is a reflection of my own personality. I always joke that I should do a collection that’s all black just to see what happens – people probably wouldn’t not buy any of it! House of Holland’s DNA is very much about being bold and playful.
If you were to try and sum up who you’re designing for, how would you do that?
I would say she’s a younger customer in her mid 20s, early 30s; she’s got quite a big personality, she’s confident and she loves fashion; she’s got a great sense of humour and she’s the one at the party that you want to hang out with.
You’re a go-to designer for a lot of Britain’s “It” girls – Alexa Chung, Agyness Deyn, Lily Allen. How do these relationships influence your work?
If you’re a designer and a top model you hang out a lot, you work together, you shoot together, you do campaigns together. Some of my friendships started through that sort of thing. But a lot of my friendships existed before they were “It” girls – I grew up with them and we spent a lot of time together before they were doing what they do and I was doing what I do. I prefer to work with people that I have a genuine relationship with. To me, being able to work alongside your friends is one of the biggest bonuses of what I do.
Being a man designing women’s wear, you take inspiration from all the women in your life. So many of those women, you’d know who they are but so many of them you wouldn’t – the women in my office, the women in my family, my sisters – they all inform what I do in a big way. Some of them are known for how they dress like Pixie, Alexa and Agyness, but the other women in my life are just as influential.
What were you doing before you got into fashion?
I was in magazines, I was doing this. People always get a little bit nervous when I tell them that. I did journalism at university and I was on quite a straight-laced newspaper course. The whole atmosphere and energy was about starting at local newspapers and working your way up. I didn’t have the patience for it. I tried to change into a fashion course but I couldn’t so I did a lot of extracurricular work assisting stylists and what not, and I found myself in teen magazines by mistake, and I ended up there for three or four years.
When I was fashion editor at Bliss magazine I started making my own T-shirts. I absolutely loved the job; my T-shirts were never an escape route or a way for me to move away from it, and I was really sad to leave magazines. I loved the environment I was working in, I loved the team. I’ve gradually managed to build up my own team now, but it took a while.
What’s the relationship between your fashion and your eyewear?
The eyewear has the brand’s DNA running through the designs, and it’s the same customer buying it. In some collections it reflects the ideas, the inspiration and the colour palettes of the ready-to-wear. Eyewear’s very important for building character on the catwalk and was a big part of our latest runway show. The collection was inspired by the 90s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas film; we created the yellow aviators that Johnny Depp and Hunter S. Thompson are famous for wearing.
Using Fear and Loathing as an inspiration, was that something you’d wanted to do for a while or something that came to you out of the blue?
It just came to me. We started working on this idea of tropical prints and then we started exploring the concept from there. I found this artist called Suzan Pitt who did all these hand-painted flasher macs for Patricia Field, so we got her involved and she created all these bugs for the collection. I watched the film again, and all the interiors, the colours, the hallucinations, it all started to fit together to become this Hawaiian safari concept with a Fear and Loathing element.
House of Holland’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas-inspired Spring/Summer 2016 collection.
When it comes to eyewear, New Zealanders are probably a little reserved with the choices they make and your eyewear obviously makes quite a bold statement. How would you encourage someone to experiment with something more playful?
There are definitely pieces in the collection which are less statement and easier to wear. But I’d suggest starting with a bolder silhouette or shape in a plain black with black lens. I think eyewear is becoming as important as your handbag, especially somewhere like New Zealand where you have longer summers. Be more expressive, be bold would be my advice.
You teamed up with Visa and incorporated an impressive tech element into your last catwalk show, which allowed show attendees to shop the collection on the spot. How do you see the future of the runway?
A lot of people are starting to ask what’s the future of the catwalk show. For me it’s still a hugely important part of the industry, creating that element of theatre and drama and showcasing your collection in an environment that you create – the music, the models, the lighting, all of those elements – that’s your one time to do that.
For me the future of the fashion show is incorporating a consumer experience. Fashion shows are no longer a closed off private event for buyers and press because the minute the first look comes out, it’s on Instagram – anyone can follow your collection. We get so much traction and attention on the day of the show, and if we get anyone contacting us saying “That’s amazing, where can I get it?” we have to say in three months time. It just doesn’t fit into the way we consume things these days. It’s about evolving the concept to something that’s consumer facing and press facing. People are scared of doing too much change to quickly, so it’s about finding the right level and doing it gradually.