In support of Ovarian Cancer Month, designer Henry Holland is hosting Debut, a new annual fundraiser with Cancer Research UK that has a very fashion-centric auction lot. A fleet of fashion names, from Kate Moss to Christopher Kane to Paul Smith, have donated one-of-a-kind “fashion firsts,” i.e. the first photo Rankin took of the model would become his wife and Alexandra Shulman’s first issue of British Vogue as its editor-in-chief. We spoke to Henry about how best to get people to part with their money, flying muggle class and almost being an HRH.
What inspired you to organize this charity event?
Cancer Research UK has always been an important charity to me. One of my best friends works for them so I had already been to a lot of their events with her, and I spoke with the events team about how they could put on a fashion event. Also, my mum is a cancer survivor, so the cause is quite close to my heart. I want to help them raise some money so that everybody’s experience can end as well. Tragically, a lot of people die of gynecological cancers. I think it’s still an area that needs a lot of help and support. Usually the attention is on breast cancer, so I think it’s great to have an event where the focus is solely on gynecological cancers.
Tell us about the auction.
It’s a tried and tested technique. The auction formula is the best way to raise a lot of money. And we were able to get together really amazing pieces, future iconic pieces. You don’t need to have a sit-down dinner. Sometimes they can be so boring. We just want people to have fun, and obviously get pissed because they spend more money when they’re pissed.
Who are you expecting to attend?
Well, I’ve invited my friends, and people who I’ve called up to help with the auction, but they [Cancer Research UK] have handled the guest list, so they’ve got lots of people who have supported the charity. It’s definitely a collaborative thing. I’ve been working with the team on all aspects, the entertainment, the hosts, the lots and the exhibition. I don’t think I got any say in the canapés though. I don’t even know what they are. I’ve been working with the Cancer Research UK team for 18 months on this event. It’s been really hard fitting it around my House of Holland duties. I’m exhausted!
So it’s going to be an annual event?
That’s what we want. I think we need to drive home the message that we’re going to do this every year. This is the debut, hence the name. We’ll think of a different theme for the next one. We had a lot of time thinking about this name. Naming anything is really hard! Like when I named my company, that was just a joke. I was working in teen magazines at the time and I got a press release about Beyonce’s clothing line, House of Dereon, which is her grandmother’s name. I was sitting at my desk wondering what I should call my line. So I thought maybe I should call it House of Holland.
Is Henry Holland your real name?
Yeah. Everyone asks that, as if I’d choose that! It worries me that people think I’m pretentious enough to change my name. My mum was going to call me Henry Richard, but she decided I should’t have the initials HRH. But now I think, Why not? That would have been cool!
So company name sorted then.
No, diffusion line sorted. House of Holland: HRH. Perfect.
And you’re also doing the marathon as well. Have you suddenly become charity-orientated?
Not intentionally. I’ve always been a very charitable person. I’m a giver, I really am. I mean, what can I say? But it’s for a different charity. I might do it again next year, but I’m fed up with not drinking and smoking. I haven’t drunk or smoked in years! I go to Miami the day after the marathon so I’m just going to get tanked on the plane. I’ll need it, too. I’m flying economy. I can’t sit like that for nine hours. I’ll bleed! I’m going to need wheelchair assistance when I get off the plane, and I’m not exaggerating. I can’t believe I’m flying muggle class!