As students travel to London ready for GFW19, our Digital Editor Megan Doyle catches up with GFF global Ambassador and founder of House of Holland, Henry Holland. Henry has been working with GFW since 2016, when he was made an ambassador. Through the years, Henry has been a judge, a guest speaker, has released a range of tote bags with GFW and Primark, was on the judging panel for the FatFace T Shirt Competition, and in 2017 was a mentor to the Tu Scholarship winner, Laura Gillings. We sit down with Henry to discuss his experience with GFW, the skills he believes are crucial for young fashion professionals to possess, and his advice to the 2019 graduates.

Photo by Rory James at GFW17

Photo by Rory James at GFW17

You've been involved in Graduate Fashion Week for a number of years now. What drew you to working with the charity initially and how has it evolved since you first came on board?

I think GFW is such an amazing resource for graduates and it’s such a privilege to be able to help them in any way that I can. Starting out in the creative industries is daunting and scary and can be overwhelming and the support the GFW provides for new and emerging talent is invaluable. It’s changed a lot since I started working with them — it’s got bigger and better every year with more partnerships that are focused solely on employment and with industry partners.

The industry is constantly changing — what skills do you think graduates need to keep up with the pace of the industry now?

It’s important to question everything. Young people have an inherent advantage already as they consume and digest their fashion in the ways that mega-brands all over the world are trying to tap into naturally. But it’s so important for them to questions everything. Why do I shop the way I shop? What do I want from brands that I engage with? How would I like to be spoken to and communicated with? What resonates with me and my peers? Those are the questions that, if you can answer, will take you far!

Photo by Rory James at GFW17

Photo by Rory James at GFW17

You've done so many collaborations in the last ten years — whether they be with retailers, labels or more unexpected brands like Netflix. What is it about working with different companies that you find compelling? How do these collaborations come about? 

For me a huge part of my job is about communication. Communicating with my customers with new and exciting stories, projects, partnerships and products is so key to keeping them involved and engaged with my brand and interested to see what we do next. It also has allowed me to grow my business financially and reach wider audiences. 

You've spoken recently about your focus turning towards sustainability. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you see for your brand in becoming more sustainable? Are you hopeful for the future of the industry? 

The biggest challenges for myself are implementing new strategies into the brands everyday operations and output now that we have a brand in the marketplace. Often changing things will affect your price points, lead times and execution which is tricky to navigate and implement whilst running the company.

I am taking it one step at a time and working out the best way to do it with the biggest impact on our sustainability output and the smallest (negative) impact on our customers. In the same way that I was able to build my brand into other product categories through collaborations, I am using the same approach to work with sustainable brands on partnerships that can increase our level of awareness and introduce me to new practices and fabrications that I can then use within my mainline. Its a gradual process but one I am committed to. 

Photo by Angharad Thomas at GFW16

Photo by Angharad Thomas at GFW16

What advice would you give the graduates getting ready for GFW19 about their first steps into the industry? What do you wish you knew during that transition period from uni to work life? 

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself! The first steps you take into the industry do not need to be your last. That first job is a learning curve and use it as such. It doesn’t have to be the dream job or the job you dreamt of doing for years. It’s about learning and adapting your skills that you learn in educational into a practical role. And above all, enjoy it!