My 2012 “roots” prediction about London-based fashion designer Henry Holland was accurate: in 2016 he collaborated with documentary photographer Martin Parr on the presentation of his first menswear collection and the photographs were taken in Henry’s home town of Ramsbottom.

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Henry describes the process in this short film by Hamish Stephenson. He explains:

The menswear collection… has influences from my personal connection to menswear growing up… football shirts I used to wear as a teenager… the denim and the neon flashes I used to wear in the ‘90s… and so I thought it would be really fun to go back to my home town and shoot it around the town and incorporate the town into the shoot… I felt like that was an interesting way of us portraying the clothes from a Martin perspective and he would be able to document the town…

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I must admit, when I first saw the photos I wasn’t so keen on the ‘plonk a beautiful man in expensive clothes in a grim northern town and laugh at the hilarious consequences’ concept… it felt quite patronising. I can’t pretend to fully understand Martin Parr’s canon of work but I thought his thing was documenting real people in all their gory glory… whereas these images are completely artificial, and their impact is dependent upon the uneasy collision of two different worlds. But people have been taking these kind of fashion photographs for years… it’s all about selling clothes at the end of the day… so what is my problem?

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In the film, Henry explains:

The inspiration behind our first collection was really just the customer itself House of Holland man. We looked at his characteristics, his pastimes, what he does, what are the brands he wears, how he likes to incorporate his personality into his clothes… It was really building up a collection almost as a wardrobe of pieces and then the way that those were paired together and styled is what created the character and the person that we were trying to portray.

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My problem, then, is possibly with the concept of the House of Holland man (itself?)… who is he?

He is apparently young, employed (to afford the clothes) and looks like he must still live with his parents (- the only way a ‘youth’ might have this much disposable income in a small northern town, other than being a drug dealer.) But his pastimes… eating chips, drinking beer, playing football, thinking he’s a great lover… don’t suggest a personality who would buy these ironic, self-mocking, archly humourous clothes.

So is the House of Holland man a piss-take of young men growing up in the north? Meanwhile the natural habitat of the real HoH man is likely to be London… and you probably won’t find him drinking 10 pints, eating a bag of chips or playing footy on the weekend. What is that about?

This photo seems to have another significance:

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Not many straight men would have the confidence to wear this denim jacket with the pink-fringed over-sized pockets – it’s so flamboyant – so the visual impression seems at odds with the collection’s slogans which suggest a rather simple-minded heterosexual lad-about-town. So it’s hard to understand who the House of Holland Man is supposed to be exactly.

Perhaps the answer is straight-forward: HoH Man is Henry himself, growing up in a small northern town… wanting to fit in, but feeling different. This reading of House of Holland’s first menswear collection – as autobiographical art and cultural commentary – means that the clothes have significance beyond being just fashion items.

Clothes from Henry Holland’s first menswear collection can still be purchased at reduced prices on the HoH webiste, if you have the courage to wear them!

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I think the jumper below might be a reference to this. Not sure if perrys would’ve referred to haircuts as ‘hairdo’s’ though!

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