Pirates, Parties and Surf Culture: Henry Holland on the Intersection of Arts

Hot off the heels of his latest collection, we talk to Henry Holland about the faded glamour of Britain’s seaside towns, the blurring of fashion, music and art, and partying with The Muppets at London Fashion Week.

the world of Henry Holland, fashion is
never just fashion. He’s inspired by art, music and pop stars,
celebrating the intersection of them in his work and bringing
uninhibited fun to an industry that can get caught up in the speed
and need to produce. But just because he believes in having fun, it
doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his work seriously.

Holland’s designs comprise layer upon layer of inspiration and
his collections tell stories built on authenticity. Cool-kid
entourage and quirky sense of humour aside, the British designer is
well-spoken and knows what he wants for House of Holland’s future.
We caught up with him following London Fashion Week.

What was the inspiration behind your SS18 collection?

The collection was inspired by the idea of
pirates. I was looking at lots of 1970s photography of
traditional surf culture and wanted to juxtapose it with another
world so I started looking at pirates. It was about free and easy
travellings of summer pieces; I was imagining a girl throwing
something on over a bikini
and going to the bar for a drink. Then we added in all the pirate
gear – hats and jewellery – which was created out of found
treasure. Finally, we built the pirate-ship set.

Was there a specific place that influenced the collection?

We looked at British pirates and souvenir spoons which are quite
well known in certain coastal
British towns
, as well as places like
. But it’s really about beach culture which is quite
Australian, I suppose.

What’s your favourite look?

It changes every 10 minutes, but I really loved looks number
four and 19. Number four is a full-denim look with one of the print
stories and a pirate hat so it amalgamated all of the reference
points. It felt like the perfect look to show the juxtaposition of
the two reference points. The minute we tried look 19 on the girl
who wore it on the runway we couldn’t put it on anyone else. She
only wore that one look in the show, but we tried it on so many
girls after her and it just didn’t work – it was obviously her

How would you describe the relationship between art and

I think there is always a crossover between art and fashion, or
any visual medium. Fashion has a purpose; people wear clothing to
keep them warm and to prevent them from being naked, but at the end
of the day the way we approach the process of creating collections
and building stories through clothing is a similar process to
creating artwork. A lot of clothes become a canvas for which print
designers display their work, especially our collections as they’re
very print driven. The visual language crosses over between the two

Your resort collection was inspired by the work of the late
abstract painter Albert Irvin. Why?

The Albert Irvin story was such a personal one for me. He wrote
me a letter because he thought I bought one of his pieces, but I
had to write to him and say that actually I couldn’t afford his
work, but I loved it and would really like to collaborate. Sadly,
he passed away before we could arrange it but his daughters
contacted me and said he had been really excited about the
prospect. I worked with them throughout resort season, shooting the
collection in his studio – a time capsule which he’d used since the
1970s – using his work as a backdrop as well as for inspiration.
This gives the collection a genuinely authentic narrative.

Do you think there’s a division between social scenes in the
art and fashion worlds?

Yes and no. There’s a slight distinction between the two, but
there’s also such a crossover now. I love to look at outfits at art
events. When you go to a fashion party, 90% of the clothes worn
have been borrowed or the people wearing them made them, or they
work for the designers. When you go to an art event, these people
have parted with their money and put these outfits together
themselves, so you get interesting interpretations of catwalk
looks. There’s so much money and so much creativity, yet people
aren’t necessarily that clued in upon the fashion side of it. They
won’t necessarily put together a look the way it was shown on the
catwalk; it has a personal approach that I love.

Have you seen any particularly surprising outfits?

So many. I love when you see a runway piece of Prada mixed with
something so oddball you would never see together if someone was
being paid to wear Prada at a fashion event.

Which was the best party of London Fashion Week?

The LOVE Magazine party in partnership with The Muppets
was a great one. They decorated an old-school Londonmember’s club
like it was a spaceship and all the barmen were wearing silver
outfits and twerking. One of my friends was djing with Animal and
Mrs Piggy was there – it was hilarious.

How do you decide what to wear to parties?

It depends if I have time to go home and change, which is rare.
I dress for my mood, so sometimes that’ll be three different
outfits in a day. It’s less about conforming to rules or situations
and more about how I feel.

What’s the relationship between fashion and music?

Again, there’s so much crossover. I love working with musicians
and pop stars because they’ve constructed a personality. You get to
know so much more about a person when they’re a musician because
they’re marketed as such. While character casting is becoming more
of a thing with models, you’re associating yourself with an entire
image beyond visuals when you work with pop stars. The music
someone listens to and the clothes they wear are intrinsically
linked; the fashion world is massively influenced by the music
world. For example, hip-hop and rap culture have always influenced
fashion brands and vice versa. Now, there are very alpha men in the
rap world who are into fashion and dressed in head-to-toe Gucci. I
love that that’s such a thing now.

How do you think fashion shapes a person’s identity?

It’s your billboard to the outside world. You get to tell
everyone who you are without opening your mouth, and that’s a
powerful tool to have at your fingertips. Changing your outfit
allows you to get a message across in so many different ways;
you’re creating a character.

Describe your style.

Eclectic, schizophrenic, changeable. Some days I’ll dress like a
clown because I want attention, others I’ll wear all black because
I’m hungover.

How does your brand reflect that?

I describe it with personality traits rather than with visual
attributes, fabrications or techniques. I think it’s a personality,
a tone and a sense of humour.

How will you spend your time between this collection and the

I just came back from
Hong Kong
where we opened a shop, and I have more trips planned
for sourcing and production – I’m going to see the factories and
launching all the new lines. After Christmas, it’s pretty much full
steam ahead again, though I’m hoping to go on holiday over
New Year

Any favourite places in Hong Kong?

I love going to the opera house for cocktails because the view
is so good. I actually walked from my hotel to the peak and I still
feel like I have sore legs. I feel like I have a Kardashian-sized
bottom as a result because I was basically on a stair machine for
two hours!

What does the future hold for House of Holland?

It’s always been my dream to build a brand. I’ve never
considered myself as a designer who is going into collection after
collection; I’ve always thought about House of Holland in a much
wider sense. I want to go into other areas and make it into a fully
fledged lifestyle brand with various levels and categories.

How do you hope House of Holland contributes to the picture of
fashion from our time?

I hope it injects a big dollop of fun. I describe the brand as a
bit obnoxious, which is usually thought of being negative, but I
mean it in a positive sense. We’re unafraid, we’re bold, we’re
brash, we’re playful. This is us, like it or not. Take it or leave

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