Henry Holland on British style, branding and Beyoncé

Henry Holland
In town to launch his House of Holland eyewear collection and shoot an exclusive editorial with Fashion Quarterly, we sat down for a chat with British designer Henry Holland.

New Zealanders have a reputation for wearing a lot of black. With colour being so important to your brand, what do you think of the way we dress?
The way we inject personality into our collections is through the palette – it’s gives us a unique standpoint. But I personally wear a lot of black as well, and I think there’s great style down here.

What about British style? I think of it as quite conservative, but there are all the subcultures that form such a huge part of British fashion history. Where do you fit into that?
The label was born during one of the last big, music/fashion movements – nu-rave – where everything was neon and we all dressed absolutely mental and I had skinny jeans in 27 different acid-bright colours. We were very much a part of that scene.

As much as fashion is a vehicle of self-expression for you, are there any trends you think should never have seen the light of day?
I have a bit of a bugbear with wedged trainers, they’re just so omnipresent! But generally I think, as you said, fashion is a form of expression and that’s how I approach it. Your clothes are a billboard and they give you the ability to tell people who you are and what you’re about without opening your mouth.

So if you had a daughter, there’s nothing you’d forbid her from wearing?
Sometimes I feel sad that, even growing up in the 1990s and 2000s, all of the extreme fashion movements had been and gone. There’s not a lot you can do to shock your parents with how you dress anymore, so I think I would encourage my daughter to just go for it. Although, I can still see her coming downstairs and me yelling, “get a coat on!”

Or maybe she’ll go the other way…
…and be a total geek, like Saffy from Absolutely Fabulous? Yeah, that will be it.

Eyewear is a huge part of what you do, talk to me about your new collection.
I’ve been working on the eyewear range for almost three years now. It’s very much an extension of the brand – the look, the feel, that sense of humour and that personality.

Do you wear sunglasses inside?
I don’t, I’m too conscious of people calling me out for being a stuck up wanker. Recently I got off the tube and realised I’d had my sunglasses on for the entire 40-minute journey, and I was like oh, that’s so embarrassing. So I tweeted an apology to anyone who may have seen me.

Does it concern you that someone viewing your collections through sunglasses perhaps isn’t getting the full impact of it all?
You know what, some of my collections could do with being seen through a pair of sunglasses. It’s probably not a bad idea.

Tell me about meeting Anna Wintour.
It was quite uneventful! She said ‘hello’, and ‘pleased to meet you’, and she was very professional, very British.

Who are you dying to meet?
Well it would have been the queen, but I’ve met her. Maybe Beyoncé, because I feel like she’s a really good person, but I’d be so worried about getting it right and not screwing it up. You can’t screw it up with Beyoncé.

What’s been the most surreal moment of your career so far?
There’s been a lot. I think in the first three years, every week or so we’d be like… really? That just happened?

What’s next for you?
Building a lifestyle brand. My joke is that I want to wake up in my House of Holland bedding and get into my House of Holland robe and drive to my office in my branded Range Rover and eat off a House of Holland plate. So that’s next. No biggie.

House of Holland S/S 2016. Available from

Words: Phoebe Watt
Photography: Meek Zuiderwyk