Master of collaborations Henry Holland has put the House of Holland stamp on an interiors collection for Habitat
Not enough parties boast roulette tables, paper umbrella-adorned Singapore Slings and platters of cheese and pineapple on sticks – or a host who matches their outfit to the interiors, for that matter.
Unless, of course, said host’s name is Henry Holland. The designer has never been afraid of making a statement, and the ’70s-themed bash to celebrate his first collection for Habitat was no exception. Playing the role of host with the most, Holland’s gladrags – a khaki jacket covered with bright orange and blue palm leaves – complemented the cushions perfectly.
Of course, few hosts have their fingers in as many pies as Holland. For his latest foray, the daring designer has translated prints from House of Holland’s S/S16 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-inspired fashion collection from catwalk to couch.
“I didn’t realise how into homewares people were until I started doing this,” he laughs. “People are more excited by this than anything I’ve done in a really long time. All my friends are like: ‘can you get me some free cushions please?’”
His posse includes all the likely fashionistas (Alexa Chung, Daisy Lowe, Pixie Geldof), but this is no PR coup; Holland and the rest of the clique seem thick as thieves. Miquita Oliver and Daisy Lowe were in good spirits when they turned up on the night to show their support, along with Holland’s mum, who donned a pair of wacky, bright pink feathered ankle boots from the S/S16 collection for the occasion.
The designer has always maintained that his front row is made up of friends; model Agyness Deyn for example, is a childhood chum – the pair have known each other since they were 12 years old. His tongue-in-cheek humour, Lancashire lilt, and natural, off-the-cuff patter means it’s hard not to warm to Holland.
“I met the PR on the dancefloor at a wedding,” he confesses when I ask how the Habitat collaboration came about. “That’s how most good business relationships start, right?” It took another year for the range to materialise from the dancefloor debrief.
“I didn’t realise how into homewares people were until I started doing this”
The collection comes in a landmark year for the brand: House of Holland turns 10 in September, something which its irreverent founder really hadn’t bargained for when he launched his now-notorious Fashion Groupie T-shirts. Slogans like: ‘Do me daily Christopher Bailey’; ‘I’ll show you who’s boss Kate Moss’; ‘Get yer freak on, Giles Deacon’ turned out to be his fast-track ticket into the hard-to-crack fashion world.
Holland admits it was a career-defining moment, but he had originally wanted to be a journalist and moved to the capital to study at the London College of Printing (Deyn would come and crash on his floor in halls whenever she booked a job). After graduating he found work on the fashion desk of a teen magazine. “I’d probably still be doing that now if I wasn’t designing. Hopefully I wouldn’t have been fired,” he deadpans in that way of his.
He was called into a team meeting to discuss a photoshoot with boy band Blue on his first day. Hot topics of conversation included: “were they cover-worthy? Who should take their top off; who should be covered in grease… I was like ‘Oh my god, you get paid for this?!’” he reminisces.
“I always wanted to be part of the fashion industry, but where I grew up it wasn’t really something you did for a career. I came from a family of lawyers and while they were always supportive, it wasn’t until I moved to London that I realised how many exciting opportunities there were in the fashion world,” he explains. “The T-shirts came as a bit of fun on the side, something playful for me and my friends to wear, it wasn’t anything more than that. I never really considered that it was going to be a game changer. And then I just sort of had to take anything that came my way with both hands.”
His overnight success coincided with Deyn’s and catapulted them both into the limelight. “It was so simultaneous it was creepy,” he has said in the past, but sharing the fame with a sidekick seems to have kept Holland grounded; instead of going to after- parties the pair, who eventually became flatmates, would head home for a cuppa.
True to his word, the resourceful designer lept on any opportunities that came his way, and in the years that followed he established his brand thanks to a successful series of collaborations. Everything from chewing gum to tights and everyone from Levi’s and Charlotte Olympia to Swarovski and Debenhams has been bestowed with the House of Holland touch, but the Habitat range marks Henry’s first stab at soft furnishings.
“I love putting the House of Holland stamp on anything really. I always dreamed of building it into a fully-fledged lifestyle brand, encompassing fashion, homewares, accessories – the whole lot. I like branching out into different areas and the synergy between House of Holland and Habitat was perfect,” he says. “The timing was very fortuitous, too”.
The botanical prints and creepy crawlies that made up the brand’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-themed S/S16 collection translated to homewares perfectly. “A lot of the reference points come from the film; not just the way Johnny Depp’s character was dressed, but also the landscape, the hallucination, the interiors of the hotel. It was a bit of an homage to that period – the late ’60s, early ’70s.”
The collection, which he describes as a “hallucinatory mix of pattern and texture”, is grounded with the staple Paradise Leaf print, used on the Abel sofa and rug. This is joined by a range of cushions with contrasting prints on each side, and a reversible throw in a Pufferfish print. The hand-embroidered bugs were first imagined for the S/S16 collection by American illustrator Suzan Pitt.
“It’s very bold, playful and exciting – the same kind of adjectives I would use to describe our clothes. It’s important that the brand DNA runs throughout. A lot of what we do is heavily print-based, so that element translated well into interiors. The difference comes in terms of execution; rug making was an interesting learning curve. We digitally printed a sofa and an armchair, which is actually the first time Habitat has ever done that, which is exciting.”
“It’s very bold, playful and exciting – the same kind of adjectives I would use to describe our clothes"
The entire collection takes pride of place in the East London terrace Henry shares with his fiancé David Hodgson. The pair have lived there for two years and frequently turn to Holland’s antiques dealer mum for interiors advice. “She’s always bought me furniture when she sees it on her travels to antiques fairs, so I’ve been collecting through her for years,” he says.
“It’s still a work in process. You think you can do it all in three months and it’s more like three years. We did a few structural bits and bobs, but you find that whenever you move a doorway something’s falling down again. It’s all part of the fun, I suppose. The other day I found a crack in the loft the size of my hand…”
The seat of his Paradise Leaf armchair might be barely cold, but with talk of a second range already in the pipeline the DIY might have to be put on hold for the time being.