De­signer Henry Hol­land sits down with col­lab­o­ra­tor Max Wal­lis to dis­cuss his MyS­pace in­spired ‘Top Eight’ col­lec­tion.

Gay Times Magazine - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy Iolo Lewis Ed­wards Words Ryan Cahill

North­ern-born de­signer Henry Hol­land started his ca­reer with a range of in­stantly recog­nis­able t-shirts. Th­ese days, his brand House of Hol­land is a reg­u­lar fea­ture on fash­ion week timeta­bles and his cre­ations have earned him a nom­i­na­tion for Emerg­ing Menswear De­signer. As he pre­pares to launch his new Top 8 col­lec­tion, which is in­spired by Mys­pace, he sits down with poet Max Wal­lis to talk about their col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Ah, the MyS­pace Top 8. You must re­mem­ber it? It was the cause of much awk­ward­ness in your school can­teen if your mate had shifted you down the list. It was the only true way that you could an­a­lyse your so­cial sta­tus, and it was un­de­ni­ably bru­tal.

Manch­ester-born de­signer Henry Hol­land says he pretty much “lived” for his Top eight. It was ac­tu­ally on the so­cial me­dia plat­form that he sold his first t-shirt for which he be­came fa­mous for and what has acted as the foun­da­tions of his highly suc­cess­ful brand, House of Hol­land. Th­ese days, the brand is in a league of it’s own, with a front row lit­tered with celebs, im­pres­sive re­views and even an im­pend­ing Emerg­ing Menswear De­signer nom­i­na­tion as this is­sue goes to press.

For his lat­est project, he’s hark­ing back to the past and pay­ing homage to MyS­pace with his Top 8 t-shirt col­lec­tion. The t-shirts have been cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with eight unique creatives in­clud­ing doo­dle artist Hattie Ste­wart, meme maker She’s Vague and poet Max Wal­lis, who sits down with Hol­land to talk about his lat­est project.

Max: Tell us about the Top 8 col­lab­o­ra­tions.

Henry: So I wanted to do some­thing that re­ally re­fo­cused House of Hol­land as a brand on our ori­gins and our begin­nings, so I think most peo­ple know that we started in T-shirts, but what most peo­ple don’t know is that the first place I ever sold one was on MyS­pace, with a copy and pasted PayPal link on my MyS­pace wall! So from that I kind of came up with this idea of do­ing some­thing around the Top 8, which is ob­vi­ously the main fo­cus of your MyS­pace, which dur­ing a pe­riod of the early 2000s we all lived and died by. That’s why we came up with the con­cept of work­ing with 8 col­lab­o­ra­tors [and] call­ing it the Top 8. [Then] I set about ba­si­cally us­ing so­cial me­dia as the main tool to re­cruit the top 8, so some of the col­lab­o­ra­tors are past col­lab­o­ra­tors of the brand. Max: Which ones?

Henry: Danielle Le­vitt has shot some of our cam­paigns in the past, Hattie Ste­wart has worked with us on sev­eral collections, Ed­die Ed­die by Billy Tommy has worked with us on menswear and then some are new col­lab­o­ra­tors, like your­self, that we’ve never worked with.

Max: So do you see it as con­tin­u­ing with dif­fer­ent groups?

Henry: The great thing about the Top 8 con­cept is that you al­ways have a Top 8…

Max: And you al­ways change it!

Henry: And you al­ways change it! [Laughs] So we’re go­ing to have the ex­act same so­cially awk­ward­ness of “sorry, you’re not in it any­more” so we’re look­ing to ro­tate. We’ll prob­a­bly add in about three new ones four times a year and so it’ll be an on­go­ing con­cept for us. As a brand, House of Hol­land has al­ways been very in­clu­sive and very col­lab­o­ra­tive and I’ve al­ways been quite vo­cal about the peo­ple that I’ve worked with along­side my­self.

Max: What do you think is so in­ter­est­ing about col­lab­o­rat­ing with peo­ple?

Henry: Well for me, it’s about get­ting a new per­spec­tive. I’ve been do­ing this now for 10 years, which means we’ve put out like 25, nearly 30 collections and I think to keep things in­ter­est­ing both for me and my cus­tomers, it’s im­por­tant to be open to col­lab­o­ra­tion and be open to new ideas. I just think it adds a new di­men­sion to the project be­cause it’s two peo­ple’s ideas com­ing to­gether to form some­thing new, which fas­ci­nates me.

Max: It’s in­ter­est­ing from my per­spec­tive. Peo­ple al­ways have this idea that poetry can’t ex­ist ev­ery­where, like that it’s just for pages or pa­per. My chal­lenge that I’ve al­ways tried to do, is how do you sub­vert that? How do you get it into places that peo­ple wouldn’t nor­mally ex­pect? The thing is you can to­tally un­der­stand why poetry would be on a t-shirt to be hon­est. I can any­way!

Henry: Ob­vi­ously there’s so many t-shirts that peo­ple wear that could be con­sid­ered poetry, de­pend­ing on how you look at it. I think what you’ve man­aged to do over the past year with the Top­man project, [which] was very much about putting it into a film con­struct, the thing that you’ve just done for Vogue which is about putting poetry on a dif­fer­ent plat­form, and sort of to a dif­fer­ent au­di­ence, I think is a re­ally in­ter­est­ing ap­proach to the medium.

Max: What’s in­ter­est­ing for me about all this, is the di­ver­sity of the peo­ple that you’ve cho­sen. For ex­am­ple the meme artist, She’s Vague, is fas­ci­nat­ing. I’m in­ter­ested as to how meme art will work in t-shirt form?

Henry: The She’s Vague thing I sup­pose is more of a com­men­tary from me that peo­ple con­sider that pla­gia­rism in so many dif­fer­ent ways, be­cause it’s just re­post­ing of other peo­ples ideas. When you look at the cu­ra­tion be­hind those In­stra­gram ac­counts, it’s putting for­ward such a fo­cused point of view, and whether that be a pe­riod of time and fash­ion, whether that be a vis­ual aes­thetic, I think there’s a real skill to it. I think it’s funny, it makes me laugh. She in par­tic­u­lar has high­lighted a cer­tain pe­riod in time which is so rel­e­vant to me that it’s very early 2000s when Three Lit­tle Women were a band, and re­ally naff VMA Red Car­pet out­fits but they are from the pe­riod when I was work­ing in that world and I was work­ing at Smash Hits! Mag­a­zine and I had to write pieces about th­ese out­fits and do like STEAL THEIR STYLE. It just res­onated so much to what I was try­ing to do in this project.

Max: For you as a de­signer, how does pla­gia­rism work with th­ese tees?

Henry: That one was more col­lab­o­ra­tive in terms of work­ing on the de­sign process, we sort of helped with what they looked like and we asked her to con­trib­ute some words and then we sort of worked them up in art­works, so there’s def­i­nitely an orig­i­nal el­e­ment to them, it’s not just a post­ing of pic­tures. I’m a big meme poster, I just post things that I feel rel­e­vant to me at the time.

Max: Do you think so­cial me­dia mat­ter has changed fash­ion? It must chal­lenge how brands in­ter­act with peo­ple as well as what they pro­duce?

Henry: It’s changed things be­yond the lan­guage part, it’s changed the way peo­ple dress. Peo­ple dress in a much more os­ten­ta­tious, pea-cock­ing kind of way be­cause they post a pic­ture of it on their so­cial plat­forms and they dress more for at­ten­tion than they ever have be­fore, be­cause even if you’re not go­ing any­where that day, you can still post a pic­ture of your out­fit and thou­sands of peo­ple can see it. Also get­ting mes­sages across through fash­ion has be­come so much more preva­lent re­cently be­cause so many peo­ple are so ap­palled at the state of the world.

Max: Does that pea-cock­ing men­tal­ity af­fect your de­sign process?

Henry: No, it doesn’t be­cause we’ve al­ways been a very pea­cocky brand! We’ve al­ways been very bold, brash and quite an ob­nox­ious brand in terms of our aes­thetic, so I think it hasn’t af­fected my de­sign process or aes­thetic in any way. It’s more just about the way peo­ple in­ter­act with your prod­uct. Pre­vi­ously where we might con­sider cer­tain pieces to be more ed­i­to­ri­ally fo­cused and less com­mer­cial, there’s def­i­nitely more of a grey area be­tween those two voids where more peo­ple are will­ing to buy some­thing.

Max: Are peo­ple choos­ing what they’re buy­ing more care­fully now, or is it the op­po­site and are peo­ple con­sum­ing far more?

Henry: I think it’s the op­po­site. I think ev­ery­body is dif­fer­ent, I think it’s very hard to say one thing but I think from a youth per­spec­tive, peo­ple are buy­ing far more be­cause it’s a bit like, if 20 years ago you were a news­reader, you wouldn’t go on the news in the same jacket twice, so you would work with a stylist or a dress agency to bor­row it, whereas now, teenage girls see them­selves in the same way, if they post it on their In­sta­gram, it goes in the bin. So if they can buy a dress from cer­tain on­line re­tail­ers for a tenner, get a great pic­ture for their In­sta­gram and never have to wear it again, job done! Max: What I find in­ter­est­ing is the change­abil­ity…

Henry: So the thing with this, and call­ing it the Top 8, it was only 10 years ago that I lived and died by my Top 8. Gen­er­a­tional changes now hap­pen as quickly as tech­nol­ogy evolves, so you are iden­ti­fied to your gen­er­a­tion in some parts by what so­cial net­work is most preva­lent to you at the time, so I have in­terns that work here who are and they don’t even know what MyS­pace is, like they’ve never heard of it. And Face­book is so not rel­e­vant to them, be­cause so­cial net­works have be­come so iden­ti­fied to cer­tain gen­er­a­tions. Those gen­er­a­tional changes are just hap­pen­ing so much quicker.

Max: With this be­ing an on­line ex­clu­sive, is that a con­scious de­ci­sion as a re­sult of it be­ing in­spired by MyS­pace?

Henry: It’s a con­scious de­ci­sion for us as a busi­ness and it just works into that strat­egy be­cause I think we are look­ing to be­come much more dig­i­tal­first as a brand and so a project like this lends it­self to that per­fectly. I’m re­ally ex­cited about it.

Max: Me too!

What most peo­ple don’t know is that the first place I ever sold [a t-shirt] was on MyS­pace, with a copy and pasted PayPal link

Launch­ing in 2012, RON DORFF are a brand for the ev­ery­man. Amidst a rapid rise, man­i­fest­ing in two stores; one in Paris and one in Lon­don, RON DORFF has be­come known for its sports­wear re­vis­its, adapt­ing clas­sics from the 70s and 80s to make pieces suited for all oc­ca­sions.

Just in time for Christ­mas, the brand have launched their Cash­mere col­lec­tion — a range of win­ter warm­ers de­signed to be per­fect for the gym, or for loung­ing at home. They’ve also col­lab­o­rated with Man About Town mag­a­zine to cre­ate a se­ries of sweaters in cel­e­bra­tion of the pub­li­ca­tions 10th an­niver­sary.

We sat down with co-founder Claus Lin­dorff to find out more about the menswear brand on the come up.

Tell us why it was that you de­cided to start a brand like RON DORFF. How did the brand come about?

At the time, my part­ner and I used to buy our sports­wear in New York as we couldn’t find sim­ple, clas­sic sports­wear in Europe. The cuts were of­ten too big, too “Amer­i­can”, so we would have a great tai­lor in Paris to fix them, which of course cost a for­tune. As is of­ten the case, we cre­ated our own brand in or­der to cater to what we couldn’t find our­selves in the mar­ket: re­vis­ited sports­wear clas­sics for men up­graded with a con­tem­po­rary cut us­ing top-qual­ity fab­rics. We also wanted to in­te­grate our ori­gins into the de­sign, thus cre­at­ing a unique mix where Swedish func­tion­al­ity meets French style and sex­i­ness.

You re­visit sports­wear clas­sics from the 70s and 80s. Tell us more about this de­sign process.

What works has very much al­ready been cre­ated and ex­ists out there. It’s more a mat­ter of re­vis­it­ing the iconic clas­sics of the past in a con­tem­po­rary ver­sion. We launched RON DORFF in 2012 with 5 iconic pieces from the 70s and 80s: The clas­sic ten­nis shorts as worn by Björn Borg at Wim­ble­don, the heather grey sweat­shirt and joˆing trousers of the early 70s, the black swim trunks as worn by Greg Louga­nis at the 1984 LA Olympics, and the rugby shorts as worn by play­ers in the late 70s; short and with a slightly ta­pered fit. Since then the col­lec­tion has ex­panded to in­clude un­der­wear in­spired by the mod­els de­vel­oped by the Swedish Army, sports cash­mere based on our now iconic mod­els and a body care line: SKIN DIS­CI­PLINE.

What are the big high­lights of the brand over the course of your ca­reer?

I would say that a big high­light was when we launched and im­me­di­ately got Paris con­cept store N°1, Co­lette, on board. They have sup­ported us from day one and this has helped us tremen­dously in our ex­pan­sion around the world, not least in Asia, and no­tably in Ja­pan and Korea. Se­cond high­light would be the day we opened our Lon­don flag­ship store in Earl­ham Street in Covent Gar­den. I think the in­te­rior re­flects to 120% the RON DORFF uni­verse and this unique mix of Swedish func­tion­al­ity with French style. Thirdly, the col­lab­o­ra­tion with MAN ABOUT TOWN for the mag­a­zine’s 10 year an­niver­sary this fall. RON DORFF de­signed and pro­duced lim­ited edi­tion sweat­shirts and t-shirts used for var­i­ous shoots with Mario Testino - al­ways a nice thing for your ego! (Laughs).

Your head of­fice is in Paris. How have the French re­acted to RON DORFF?

Re­mark­ably well! We were slightly scared at the time of the launch in France that a brand called RON DORFF and that used DIS­CI­PLINE IS NOT A DIRTY WORD as brand motto might not fly very high. The French are not known for be­ing big fans of dis­ci­pline and the mix with a brand name that sounds slightly Ger­man, could have been a big no no. How­ever, the French got the se­cond-de­gree and our DIS­CI­PLINE print has be­come the most pop­u­lar one in France. What is also in­ter­est­ing, is that the French don’t nec­es­sar­ily wear our pieces only when do­ing sports. I of­ten see our sweat­shirts and T-shirts worn at fash­ion par­ties, in restau­rants and bars, so it has very much be­come an all-round life­style brand worn at any oc­ca­sion.

Ear­lier this year you opened your first store in Lon­don, what made you want to set up shop in the UK?

We had had a lot of trac­tion from the UK on our on­line store and we felt that go­ing into the UK mar­ket with a proper UK on­line store and a proper store in Lon­don was the log­i­cal next step af­ter hav­ing suc­ceeded the launch in France. Fur­ther­more, Lon­don is very much THE hap­pen­ing cap­i­tal in Europe (yes, de­spite a pos­si­ble Brexit) and peo­ple come from all over Europe to see what’s go­ing on here. Our Lon­don store is thus very much a shop win­dow to­wards the whole of Europe and not only the UK.

The brand has a big mar­ket amongst gay men, why do you think this is?

As very of­ten is the case, gay men are the first ones to pick up a new trend or a new brand and this has very much been the case with RON DORFF too. Over­all, I think men are tired of big lo­gos and loud, over-the-top colours. In the RON DORFF col­lec­tion they are happy to find some­thing more toned down, mas­cu­line and dis­crete but still with a sexy cut. Our no frills, no logo un­der­wear has for ex­am­ple be­come the N°1 prod­uct in the Lon­don store and it is very much an item bought by “gay front run­ners”. Same thing with our swimwear: fi­nally men can find sim­ple, sexy cut mod­els with­out mad prints fea­tur­ing ba­nanas, pineap­ples and palm trees.

Any projects com­ing up that you can tell us? We’re open­ing up per­ma­nent cor­ners at Paris N°1 depart­ment store, Ga­leries Lafayette in Jan­uary and work­ing on open­ing up a se­cond store in West Lon­don in a year’s time. Mean­while we’ll be look­ing into a depart­ment store cor­ner in Lon­don. In par­al­lel we’re go­ing full steam ahead in Ger­many, open­ing a store in Ber­lin mid-2018. So no rest for some time...

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