In early November, the quirky, mega-quiffed designer Henry Holland shared the podium with Dylan Jones OBE, editor-in-chief of GQ and chairman of London Collections: Men, at the Samsung Series 2015 – an in-depth platform to discuss social media, technology and fashion.
Holland was articulate, informed, passionate, 100% 21st-century tuned-in and, above all, serious.
He spoke of social media as a powerful tool for a global, democratic conversation. He talked about the growth of ‘fashion tourism’, about Hong Kong as a ‘shopping theme park’ and about the future of the catwalk as a theatrical event to drive sales. He also talked about how Instagram, on which he has a constant presence, is “all about access… to studios, catwalks, backstage; all you need to have is a smartphone or a computer.”
This was the Henry Holland who launched his first menswear collection at LC:M in June and made sure the clothes were available to buy online that same day.
“I buy clothes as much as I make them; we live in a culture where we want to be able to have everything we see, right now," he said.
This was also the Henry Holland that Wikipedia lists as a businessman as well as a designer - the latter, incidentally, being a term Holland shrugs off because he never studied fashion. Instead, he got a BA in Journalism from the London College of Communication.
There is, however, no denying his intuitive knack for the business of fashion. In 2006, while working as a Fashion Editor for teen mags, he began producing comedy t-shirts that turned models and designers into slogans, such as: “I’ll tell you who’s boss Kate Moss”, “Wham bam Jessica Stam” and “Get your freak on Giles Deacon”.
He launched the House of Holland brand in 2008 and, a year later, added a diffusion label, “H by Henry Holland”, for Debenhams.
Today, at just 32, he works from a three-floor studio in Hackney, heading a fashion business that is sold at more than 100 outlets around the world, in addition to his own lucrative online website, which he calls "my flagship retail", and which currently features everything from “Santa Baby” fake nails at £9 to an eye-popping mustard, pink and aubergine chevron jacquard dirndl dress for £495.
Along the way, he’s collaborated with a wide range of labels including Wrigley’s Extra, Levi’s, Pretty Polly, Elegant Touch, Le Specs, and Roxy Skiwear. Oh, and he managed to run this year’s London Marathon in 3 hours 29 minutes.
But it is invariably Holland’s celebrity fan club that makes front page news. Miley Cyrus, Rita Ora and MIA wear his clothes. Alexa Chung, Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud, Pixie Geldorf, Daisy Lowe, Jamie Winston, Lilly Allen and Poppy Delevingne, along with Harry Styles and Grimmy, crowd his London Fashion Week frows.
They all love his London Girl aesthetic, a cocktail of club, street, kitsch and vintage references, always with a sense of tongue-in-cheeky fun all over, whether it’s punk, psychedelia, or OTT party. As Holland says: “Our brand works well because it’s bright, colourful, unique, out there – and obnoxious. It jumps off the page.”
So who better to describe the ultimate party girl?
“She’s the girl that everyone gravitates to – and of course she’s wearing Henry Holland,” he says. “She’s confident, she knows herself, she’s sassy and she has a sense of humour. She knows how to have fun – otherwise what’s the point of going to the party?”