The boys are back in town. And they’re wearing House of Holland’s debut menswear collection. As Toni&Guy embarks on a new partnership with the brand, we head to Henry Holland’s east London studio for a natter about lads, locks and launderettes
It was only a matter of time before House of Holland (HoH) came out with a menswear line. For a successful brand headed up by such a well-known, well-dressed, well-funny man as Henry Holland, and now that London Collections Men (LCM) has established itself as the epicentre for contemporary menswear, the time was right for HoH to step into the ring for S/S 16.
Although Holland has shown men’s clothing during his London Fashion Week womenswear shows in the past, this time it was a full offering stemming from his own wardrobe needs. ‘With womenswear, the design process is removed from me personally and it’s more about creating these fictional characters each season. Whereas with each piece of menswear it always comes back to, "Would I buy that?"' explains Holland.
Riffing on the signatures HoH is famed for – bold prints, cheeky slang, heritage fabrics and youthful silhouettes – and taking himself as inspiration to its logical extremes, the collection takes us back to the designer’s upbringing in Ramsbottom.
'I used to wear these awful Manchester United strips and pretend I was into football. And I’d skateboard around town wearing smiley face and spliffy T-shirts, even though I was too young to understand what it all meant,' he recalls.
These fashion faux pas have been translated into a 24-piece range where early 90s sports casual meets raver. Neon flash denims, two-tone suits, leather tracksuit bottoms, check shirts and baggy sweaters are covered in photo prints of pint glasses, chip shop menus and cups of tea or witty slogans, such as ‘Your Banter Is Bullshit’ and ‘Lad, Lover, Legend’. Can one guy be all three? 'Most definitely! It was one of those things that tripped off my tongue. Some of the best things we come up with at HoH are throwaway comments that leave the team all sat around giggling.’
To add an extra dimension to S/S 16, he collaborated with renowned Magnum photographer Martin Parr to shoot the lookbook in Ramsbottom. ‘I’m a massive fan of his. At our first meeting, I asked him to sign one of his prints I had bought at an auction.’ An art lover, Holland’s studio walls also feature a Roy Lichtenstein print (alongside a snap of Holland and Agyness Deyn meeting the Queen.) ‘Martin had been to Ramsbotton in the 80s and really loved the idea of going back, but as a documentary photographer – he hates shooting fashion. So it was more about observational and incidental images.’
The two-day shoot took them to all of Holland’s old haunts: a butcher's shop, launderette and pub, as well as the greasy spoon where Holland used to work. ‘My mum had pre-booked everywhere. We met resistance at the hairdresser, but when they worked out who my dad was, it was like "Oh you’re John’s son, come in!" It was really fun but I was also nervous of looking like I was lording it up around my hometown with this big production team.’
It’s been a while since Holland fitted in around these parts. He and Deyn grew up together, dreaming of fashion. They moved to London where Deyn went on to achieve supermodel status while Holland studied journalism and then worked for teen magazines. He started making his infamous ‘Fashion Groupies’ slogan T-shirts for his friends in 2006. When Giles Deacon and Gareth Pugh both wore them at their respective LFW shows – the former in ‘UHU Gareth Pugh’, the latter in ‘Get Your Freak On Giles Deacon’ – it sparked a global trend.
He joined the Fashion East roster for A/W 07 with his first womenswear offering, One Trick Pony, which comprised slogan T-shirt dresses and clear plastic macs. By 2008, he’d landed a solo show at LFW and New Generation sponsorship, plus a league of celebrity fans including Lily Allen, Alexa Chung, Rita Ora, Pixie Geldof and Daisy Lowe. He’s since grown HoH substantially, producing eyewear, jewellery, bags, accessories and kidswear.
For A/W 15, his womenswear collection is his most grown-up yet. Uptown girls from a futuristic metropolis stepped onto a moving catwalk at his LFW show wearing layered babydolls, wide trousers and chunky jumpers, swamped in houndstooth, tartan and stripes. PVC accents and sheepskin overcoats completed the posh punk look.
Meanwhile, for his LCM debut, Parr’s images were exhibited at Selfridges alongside the collection presentation. Another first, Holland teamed up with Toni&Guy’s session teams backstage to create his S/S 16 grooming statement. 'We cast the show in a way that the models looked like a group of mates that played for the local football team or hung out down the pub. So for the hair, we just elevated what each guy had already. A more polished version of normal, simple hair.'
Alas there were no quiffs, the style Holland is himself famed for. He’s been rocking his since school. 'I used to have curtains with an under cut but I never quite got it long enough to go into a ponytail – the holy grail of the teenage boy in the 90s,' he confesses. 'Then it was spiky hair and I’ve had this quiff since I was 17, which is when I realised it disguised the fact I have a big nose. My mum has the same nose and she has a big perm.'
The men’s collection went straight into stores on the day of the show, skipping the usual one-season wait – a reflection on today’s social media immediacy. So who is his customer? ‘The HoH boy is self-aware, has a sense of humour and a big pair of balls because you can’t go out in these clothes and not expect to get a bit of the piss taken out of you. But he’ll be ready with a comeback because he’s a strong and confident young man.’ Sounds familiar. Holland has a right to be confident. With this manly string to his bow, HoH is on its way to becoming a bona fide lifestyle brand. ‘I always joke that I want to be like Ralph Lauren and wake up in my HoH sheets, put on my HoH robe, get in my HoH chauffeur-driven car, and come to the HoH towers,' he says, smiling wryly. See you at the top.