Published on February 21, 2013 | by Teral Atilan, Video: Anne Plissonneau0
Give us a hand Henry Holland
Journalist turned fashion designer Henry Holland, 29, is taking a brief moment to himself after a hectic few months preparing for London Fashion Week.
In 2006, Holland started his fashion career as a joke with a couple of his friends. His bold ‘80s inspired t-shirts with catchphrases helped turn his career into a direction he had never imagined.
Holland has always had a keen interest in fashion and he says, “The fashion world’s not as bitchy as you think, but it still is a little.”
Within fashion Holland is able to “have fun, enjoy myself, and turning it into a career is very much a privilege.”
Just over seven years ago Holland regularly walked through Elephant and Castle to attend his journalism lectures at London College of Communication.
He now has his own company House of Holland, formed in 2008, and is a prestigious designer with regular spots at London Fashion Week. His new collection received great reviews this year, and is set to make a big stamp on British fashion in the next few years.
“I enjoyed my time at LCC a lot. Even though I didn’t end up doing journalism or utilising [my degree] that much, I did enjoy it. It’s just a really great environment to be in and to be part of the college that has the fashion element with CSM and LCF.
“I would go and work at magazines and just kind of sidestep to the fashion desk and hang around and wait to be given a job.” Henry Holland
“It’s a good place to be because you can work with all the different people from the different courses if you put mind to it,” says Holland.
It is clear that although he relished his time at LCC his heart was set on a different career path. “I tried to change from LCC to LCF after four days, they said no so I carried on, stuck with it.
“There was no room, and I was told to wait for a year– I’m far too impatient for that so instead I went out and got a lot of internships and work experience in fashion.
“I would go and work at magazines and just kind of sidestep to the fashion desk and hang around and wait to be given a job.”
Choosing a career different to the one he has a degree in seems unconventional, but Holland was simply unsure as to which direction he would take after university.
“I was very driven to be successful and to work hard, and I’ve always had a very good work ethic. I don’t really have a vision of where I’m going to be in 10 years, I just think I go with the flow, be the best I can be at what I’m doing at any specific time and hopefully that will lead to something interesting.
“I always wanted to be in fashion in some respect and I was given some advice from a friend of my parents who suggested that I didn’t do anything too specific and I did something that was quite broad and a discipline I could apply to lots of different subject areas.
“I got drunk and came up with some foul rude rhymes, edited them down to things that were slightly more acceptable and then put them on t-shirts.” Henry Holland
“I really enjoyed it and my plan was to write about fashion so I was to utilise a journalism degree and become a fashion writer, which I did very briefly,” he says.
Since graduation, a lot has changed for Holland. It started when he found himself at a teen magazine and just thought it “was the most fun ever.”
“I couldn’t believe that that was actually people’s jobs, and they got paid for it. I was in teen mags when I started my company,” says Holland.
His company has now expanded to ASOS, Urban Outfitters and Barneys. “[I was making my t-shirts for] my friends – no real concept, no idea that I was starting the label. I was just making some t-shirts for a joke, [they] were something fun for my friends and I to wear.
“I got drunk and came up with some foul rude rhymes and edited them down to things that were slightly more acceptable and then put them on t-shirts.” Holland’s collection now ranges from eyewear, tights, phone accessories, underwear and denim wear, with bold prints and colours a key theme.
The fashion designer
Using nothing but a rhyming dictionary and a few drinks with his mates Holland leapt into the fashion industry. It was these rhyming catchphrases that started the hype.
“I have a very personal attachment to [the first four t-shirts], ‘Uhu Gareth Pugh’, ‘Do me daily Christopher Bailey’, ‘Get your freak on Giles Deacon’, ‘Cause me pain Hedi Slimane’, they are a moment of my life and those were the designers I was really into and it was just a really fun time,” says Holland.
With a good reception from the designers the t-shirts were sure to do well, “Everyone was quite into them, Gareth and Giles wore them which is kind of how everything started for me, and Christopher Bailey bought some, and Hedi has a few.
“It was never a business plan, we never thought we would launch a label with this, it was just I made 50 and gave them out to my friends and put them on a website for a laugh,” he says.
Holland’s transition from writer to designer seemed simple: “I was writing, then I was writing on t-shirts, then I made clothes, so it wasn’t like from just being a journalist into creating full collections.
“But it wasn’t [an] easy [transition],” says Holland, “I don’t think it’s easy even if you study fashion. Going from university to starting your own company is a huge upheaval and really difficult. Whatever you’ve been studying at university, all those challenges still exist.
“I don’t [regret not studying fashion] I think doing my degree in journalism and going into a fashion business is actually quite useful. Partly because all of my colleagues, friends from my course are fashion journalists, and a lot of them are good contacts to have.
“They have pages to fill and its quite useful that I can call on them when I need them. It gives me a more rounded view of the industry.”
Other than his admiration for his parents, Holland feels a connection to Paul Smith. “I really think Paul Smith is a great role model.
“He is the most inspiring man I’ve ever met, he’s so nice and kind and personable and helpful and is so enamored by what he does, even though he has been doing it for as long as he has. He’s so in love with what he does its so refreshing.”
“Stay open-minded – don’t wait until you graduate to start getting your experience.” Henry Holland
When asked if he had any advice for a budding journalist or designer Holland says that they should “get as much experience as you can because you might decide that you don’t particularly want to be a journalist.”
He recommends that students should “stay open-minded – don’t wait until you graduate to start getting your experience, I worked two years freelancing in my last two years because I’d done all my experience in my first summer and then I got a job so I was working two days a week.”
And when it comes to the designers in the industry, Holland has nothing but praise for them: “There’s definitely a level of respect for each other because it’s such a difficult world and it’s quite hard work so we are all very supportive of each other in the most part.”