Henry Holland On Brexit, Slogan T’s And Keeping Fashion Fun

Ten years after the first 'fashion groupie' t-shirts, he's still putting the fun in fash-un

Henry Holland On Brexit, Slogan T's And Keeping Fashion Fun

by Tabi Jackson Gee |
Published on

Fashion Month has only just finished, but Henry Holland has already found time to make his week-old niece a baby version of one of his SS17 dresses. And if you haven’t read much about Holland before, this is really all the introduction you need.

The 33-year-old British designer’s House of Holland SS17 collection was part tea party, part actual party, with gingham and mesh coming together to create a very pretty, very edgy, aesthetic. While some designers get shtick for not making clothes that you can actually wear, this is not a problem that the ever customer-friendly Mr Holland has.

Naturally Brexit was a hot topic at LFW (see Ashish’s gloriously multicultural show) and Holland’s own disappointment at the referendum result was evident, in particular in his ‘Free To Roam’ emblazoned t-shirts. ‘The Free To Roam thing came from my Brexit disappointment, and the decision to vote out’ laments the designer. ‘Which I’m still really shocked by. We added the t-shirt as a post-Brexit reaction.’


Witty-worded t-shirts have long been Holland’s hero pieces, since the designer first arrived on the catwalk at Fashion East in 2006 with his ‘fashion groupie’ t-shirts. The playful tongue in cheek slogans made him an instant hit both inside the fashion industry and out, so it makes total sense that now, on their ten year anniversary, they revisited the t-shirts with a 2016 update. 2006’s ‘Get Your Freak On Giles Deacon’ and ‘Do Me Daily Christopher Bailey’ were replaced with ‘Let’s Breed Bella Hadid’ and ‘I’ve Got A Log On For Vetements.’

Ten years is a massive milestone for any young business, especially in such a cut throat industry. ‘It was really exciting’ says Holland. ‘It’s a really strange feeling at the same time because I never thought I’d still be doing this. And we started with the t-shirts, and used them again this year. And that really emphasised where we started.’

Slogan T’s are one of those trends that never really go away, particularly on the high street (Pugs Not Drugs, Make Love Not War and so on and so on) but this year they’re definitely back in the fashion eye, with Holland showing them in London and even Dior dipping their toe in the printed t-shirt water in Paris. But why now? ‘I think it’s often a reaction to people using fashion to have a voice’ says Holland. ‘There’s been a lot about feminism, and women’s rights, and the American election. I think our aim was always just to be much more playful with it and not be too political.’

They’re certainly playful, and in fashion that’s never, ever a bad thing. Does he have a favourite though? ‘From this round, I like the Vetements one. I think that one’s funny. It’s just so apt, with the crazed fandom that’s going on for the brand at the moment I think it’s the right timing.’

Holland’s Vetements t-shirt is yellow and red to reference Vetements’ own DHL t-shirt, which was the item that single-handedly catalysed this ‘crazed fandom' into being. If you think that’s too meta to get your head around you’re not the only one, but it’s reflective of the way the industry is going: Vetements took inspiration from DHL branding. Vetements also made their own Justin Bieber hoodies that looked like merchandise. In turn, Bieber’s Purpose tour merchandise was heavily influenced by Vetements. Holland’s right, his timing really couldn’t be better; yet again his t-shirts hold a mirror up to the fashion industry.

And this is typical Holland, who is simply moving with the times by tapping into the merchandise meets fashion phenomenon. ‘‘Rather than having long standing collections in stores for seasons it’s more about building up the hype and doing these short sharp bursts like with Bieber and with Yeezy’ he says, referring to the musicians own forays into fashion retail. ‘It’s just a new way that the models are changing.’

This self-awareness shows why Holland deserves all the attention he gets as a young British success story; continuing to combine business savviness with truly original creativity. And yes, sometimes he gets shit for being too commercially minded but it doesn’t seem to bother him. ‘As a designer I wish it was less pressurised and as a consumer I wish there were even more products’ he continues. ‘You understand where it comes from and the need [for more products] and it’s more about the financial repercussions really. I think any industry has its challenges.’

In a difficult and uncertain economy more and more designers are doing the clever thing and collaborating with big brands (like Holland, Matthew Williamson sells items exclusively through Debenhams). And why not? The fashion industry never does itself any favours by being inward looking and exclusive. Just ask the Vogue editors who criticised ‘pathetic’ fashion bloggers last week. You wouldn’t catch Holland, who like many of his contemporaries has social media to thank in part for their success, indulging in such self-serving cattiness.

And long may his success continue, so in another decade we can see more of those iconic t-shirts. ‘We’ll just do them every ten years’ Holland laughs. ‘So that people don’t get bored to death by them.’

So here’s to Henry Holland, for his wonderfully wearable clothes, and for making fashion fun.

Henry’s House of Holland SS17 show at London Fashion Week was single use plastic water bottle free this year, in collaboration with BRITA.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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