Henry Holland will find a way to get your attention.
Whether it’s with his ’80s style tongue in cheek catchphrase tees, his zany sunglass line, those suspender tights that everyone on High Street is copying…he will find a way to captivate. He has a knack for whimsy and knows how to inject just the right amount of cute into his wares to leave you wondering whose work you’re looking at. And that can be the confusing part. With a hand in a bunch of different collaborations, his work varies across the board — both between joint projects and his own collections. Take his women’s 2013 Resort Ready to Wear collection for example: it features naughty animated pom-poms who smoke cigs and grope the model in the promotional video and yet the clothing is as classically constructed and expertly tailored as anything out of old London. The juxtaposition he offers up of sophistication and silliness is perfection, and he’s one of those designers whose past makes a clear mark on his present.
After graduating from London College of Communications he took a job as the fashion editor of a British teen’s magazine called Bliss; a position, which if you’re familiar with this type of glossy, is all about seeking out the cute and emphasizing the fun. Cheeky, club-ready, zingy, zangy — these are all adjectives that both apply to his current collections and his teeny bopper beginnings. Holland has found a way to evolve these ideas from pages meant for an adolescent’s mind to clothes for an adult woman’s life. Before hitting his stride with House of Holland, he bridged the gap between editor and designer by producing a line of 1980s inspired, brightly colored t-shirts which paid homage to and poked the ribs of many fashion elite. Fashion Groupies T-shirt designs was a line that he sold exclusively from his MySpace account and it featured block lettered quips like “I’ll tell you who’s boss, Kate Moss,” “Do me daily Christopher Bailey” and “Cause me pain, Hedi Slimane!” Bloggers flocked and word spread slowly until he caught his big break. Giles Deacon and Gareth Pugh decided to wear one another’s respective tees to close their Spring 2007 runway shows. Deacon waved on his adoring crowd while sporting a “Uhu Gareth Pugh” tee while Pugh stepped out to applause in a “Get yer freak on Giles Deacon” top. Basically seconds later every remaining t-shirt was sold. Holland rode the wave of heady PR straight into a fully formed label of both men’s and women’s RTW named House of Holland, which officially launched in 2008.
With his label born from collaboration he’s made a point to continue working frequently with others. Levi’s, Debenhams, REVOLVE Clothing and Le Specs have all had a hand in some of Holland’s recent endeavors, and his cross-promotional symbiotic relationship with model Agyness Deyn (“Flick yer bean for Agyness Deyn!”) and their circle of trendy London friends has helped him harness a certain edgy energy. Holland is keenly aware of how to keep up with the up and coming, and uses his talent for powerful reference well within his collections. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s always either directly or indirectly involving people in pop culture in his work — Pixie Geldof, Dree Hemingway and Iggy Azalea have all helped him promote, while names like Kate Moss, Coco Rocha and Lily Donaldson have all graced his t-shirts — which he has continued to produce under the House of Holland name. Another perfect example of Holland’s aptitude for unlikely combinations: House of Holland models strutting down the catwalk in perfectly tailored trousers, silk jumpsuits, preppy pleated skirts…and brazenly clashing squared off graphic tees.
The above video was shot for his AW11 collection inspired by ’70s grandmas and plays with themes of vintage infomercials, cheesy elevator music and brazen promotional techniques. Holland himself stars, serving up spot on used car salesman glam. The branding surrounding House of Holland is genius; tongue in cheek, funny and irreverent, it leaves you wondering what’s coming up next — and when.
He took the whimsy at step further for his Resort 2013 collection and it was the promotional video for this season that left us no choice but to cover him on the blog. Inspired by American cheerleaders, he’s created a collection to pay tribute to our favorite field side pep stars featuring bring pom pom prints in silk, cotton pique and jersey, pom pom embellishments and flared silhouettes akin to those found in locker rooms across the good old US of A. Broad stripes and varsity knits scream GO TEAM GO next to striped jacquard separates and flippy godet-pleated dresses. The color palette manages to wash away any suggestion of going too literal with the theme — purple, orange, navy and yellow lend a chic, sophisticated air to a collection that could easily step into juvenile territory. This is what Holland does best; he takes youthful, fun concepts and maneuvers them into big girl territory without robbing them of their energetic essence. The promotional video below drives this point home better than we ever could — shot as Holland and his team photographed the Resort lookbook, the pom pom embellishments manage to jump off the clothing and into the spotlight.
Style.com has this to say: “This is Holland’s second Resort collection, and he has a knack for the season; it suits his spriteliness.” And we couldn’t think of a more perfect word. Spriteliness. Mixing the tradition and technique of British style with today’s sense of simultaneously cute and vulgar humor, Holland has truly managed to set himself apart from the rest. He’s quickly established himself as a designer you can turn to for both a trendy, need-right-now piece as well as a classic yet current staple that will age well inside your closet. Managing both these driving forces of fashion is no small feat and this combined with his ability to concisely communicate his collections in such thoroughly entertaining ways has us wanting MORE. So when we heard about his direction for Spring, we just about lost it.
The House of Holland girl has a problem. She just doesn’t want to deal with you right now, leave her alone, she’s so over this! Our happy go lucky, spritely little woman has hit a speed bump, and that bump is grunge. Aren’t you excited already? How is the happiest designer in the land going to tackle a time of dirty thrift store clothes, ripped fabric and stylized heroin addiction? Well the answer is, any way he damn well pleases. Holland’s released one of the most inventive takes on grunge that we’ve seen yet. Yes, it’s moody but like anything Holland touches there’s always that secret little smirk. He definitely addressed the major elements — plaid, pattern mixing, beanies, florals — but he also paid attention to the ’70s revival that was happening at that time in the ’90s as well. Some tie dye touches, short-er-alls and floral appliques get some pep back in his girl’s step. Our favorites? The patent blazer over checks, the ruffled metallic short sleeved belly baring top and, one of the quintessential looks of grunge: the dress over pants. After having just been reminded of how much we loved repping that look we just may be appearing tomorrow in our slouchiest sundress and loose fitting trousers despite the temperatures. All of the looks completed with a double strapped sneaker are making us that much more excited for summer and despite the fact that grunge never really looked like this, we’d like to pretend from now on that it did. This glorious collection expresses Holland’s range so beautifully — and he knew what he was doing. Apparently post-show he made a grand point to ask: “It’s not so shiny, happy people now, is it?”