If Fashion Week were Mean Girls, Henry Holland would be Glen Coco. As in, ‘you go Glen Coco’! He’s the guy everyone wants to hang out with. Behind his cheeky exterior, though, there’s a serious fashion force to be reckoned with. Now in its 15th season, his fashion label House of Holland is firmly established in the international arena, he’s worked on a number of high profile brand collaborations including Debenhams, Levis, Habitat and Elegant Touch, and carved out a successful TV career.
Henry’s now mixing his love of high end and high street style by presenting Bristol Fashion Week. We spoke to him about shopping, showbiz mates and the shocking nanas who’ve inspired his work…
You’re presenting Bristol Fashion Week, which we’ve only just discovered is a ‘thing’! What’s it all about?
Yeah, London, New York, Paris, Milan….Bristol! This is a bit different because it’s all about showing high street fashion. So there’s 17 catwalk shows over 5 days showing British high street brands. I’m really looking forward to it. I really enjoy the consumer connection to fashion weeks and the way they can engage with people who love fashion and want an experience that gets them excited about shopping. Also, I get to host it with my mate Mark [Heyes, TV presenter and stylist to the stars], who I have known for years so we’re going to have a properly fun time as well.
We don’t need any more encouragement to go shopping! You’ve got lots of showbiz friends – you’re giving us serious squad goals! Do you find it weird when people take an interest in you as a group?
Yeah, it’s a bit weird! But I guess I can understand where it comes from. We’ve all known each other a long time and I knew a lot of these people before working in the industry, so there’s a strength and independence to those friendships outside of the scrutiny if you like. Those are real relationships. They are my actual mates.
Does it make you conscious of what you’re putting out there on social media? Would you say social media in general has had a bit impact on your career?
Yes, I am conscious of social media. We’re not just a fashion brand now, we’re content creators as well and we have to put out continuous content that’s exciting and engaging to keep people interested. I like it because it’s more casual than the traditional approach – in the past all these things would be tightly controlled by PRs and it could come off a bit contrived, but now it’s a lot more authentic. People can really get to know who you are and what you’re about. There is a bit of pressure attached to it though, I guess. Every time a new platform comes out I feel I need to get involved. You’ve got to stay on top of it. It’s fun but it’s also work!
You’ve talked in the past about your designs having a sense of ‘Britishness.' Now that your business is expanding and fashion in general is more of a global enterprise, is that still important to you?
Our design sensibility and DNA are totally rooted in British culture and humour. We’ve got a self-effacing approach to life that is uniquely British and that won’t go away. Of course my goal is for our reach to expand across the globe, but if anything we want to export that unique Britishness. That’s what people buy into – the heart of it.
Do you have a ‘muse’?
People always love the idea of a muse but I wouldn’t say I have one exactly. What I do though is create a fictional character for each show to guide the narrative behind the clothes. She might be made up of lots of different people, but while I’m working on the show she’s real to me and everything we do goes through that filter, if you like. A few years ago we did a collection and we called her ‘Nana rave’! It was all about an old lady who likes to go to raves – there were loads of bright colours and 90s iconography. I thought of maybe someone like my mum in a few years’ time, going out and partying! I like taking two different worlds and fusing them together to make something exciting. So, yeah, there’s a muse but she might not be a real person, she might be an idea that then takes off and becomes something else.
What advice would you give any up and coming young British designers today? Are things different now to when you started out?
Oh God yes, it has changed. I’m still learning myself but I would say the biggest thing that has changed is that London has become more highly regarded now among the international fashion weeks. It was always seen as a very creative one and a hub for new ideas but it wasn’t one of the more commercial ones, but now it is. It’s much more of a serious prospect now, and we have a lot of home-grown talent that have grown into international brands, such as Roksanda and Christopher Kane. It’s an exciting place to be right now.
You’re a master of collaborations, working with Debenhams, Levis, Habitat... What do you think makes a successful collaboration?
You have to be doing it for the right reasons and be involved in the whole process, not just putting your name to something. It’s important to be authentic. We’re always hugely involved in the design process and we make sure that everything with our name on it carries the brand’s DNA. It’s got to be real. It is a great opportunity to broaden your customer and reach new people but you have to keep your integrity as well.
Have you got any more exciting collabs in the pipeline?
Yes, I’m going to be doing a sportswear collaboration, which is coming out at the end of the year with Umbro. It’s a unisex line. Like me, they’ve got a strong connection with the north as they’re Manchester based and although they’ve got a strong football heritage, this is going to be more of a lifestyle direction for them – more of a fashion take on sports, if you like. It’ll be available in December. I definitely think the athleisure trend has evolved – it’s more than just a look now, it’s like a way of life. People are enjoying dressing for comfort more, but it can also be stylish.
Henry is presenting Bristol Fashion Week with Mark Heyes at The Mall at Cribbs Causeway from 28 September – 2 October. Tickets are available online at mallcribbs.com.