Fashion & Beauty / Culture Talks

Stella Tennant and Isabella Cawdor on Their S/S17 Collection

We speak to the creative directors of Holland & Holland, who are taking the quintessential heritage brand to warmer climes in both the city and the country alike

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Holland & Holland S/S17Photography by Jamie Hawkesworth

The adventurewear brand Holland & Holland was founded in 1835, and remains a firm staple in the wardrobes of those who have a penchant for traditional outdoor excursions to this day. Last year, two women were brought in by the storied company as its new creative directors, with the mission of evolving its range of clothing for a fashion conscious country crowd. We are, of course, referring to Stella Tennant – one of the most iconic faces of the 1990s British supermodel elite – and Lady Isabella Cawdor, a former fashion editor at Vogue and similarly iconic figure. The pair both hail from aristocratic stock, but they first bonded during a meeting on the set of a photoshoot around 20 years ago, and have remained the best of friends ever since.

When asked about how such a close bond translates to their working relationship, the duo elatedly gush over the phone from Isabella’s Scottish estate: “It translates perfectly because it’s just a continuation of a conversation. We understand each other. Where Isabella is brilliant at something, I’m hopeless at something else,” says Tennant. “In a day of work there are times where I can’t concentrate anymore and Stella is still going like a greyhound!,” Cawdor continues with a laugh. “I wouldn’t want to do it on my own and certainly wouldn’t be able to do it full stop. We felt the same way since the beginning: it’s both of us or neither of us.”

Their first collection for Holland & Holland was designed for Autumn/Winter 2016, and was full of the traditional codes you might expect to see in a form of dress that should really only be accessorised with ruddy cheeks and tousled hair, a result of walking the windswept landscapes of England and Scotland. Of course, Tennant and Cawdor have packed away the layered tweeds, cashmeres and shearlings for the warmer months, bringing in a new influence to their latest designs in keeping with a drastic change in temperature: “Isabella and I both travelled in South America quite a lot and spent a lot of time there. I travelled in Chile and Isabella travelled in Argentina when she was in her early 20s too. So the clothes for S/S17 are still relevant for a summer in Scotland, but they also translate to the southern hemisphere.”

And so it was fitting that for the S/S17 campaign the pair returned to Argentina and the hills of the Sierras Chicas to shoot with photographer Jamie Hawkesworth. “We both think he’s brilliant. I think it’s the perfect fit because he brings something really contemporary to the table, but with a respect for the heritage of the clothes,” says Tennant. The collection (for both men and women) is composed of silk blouses, khaki cottons and crisp Soyella shirting, with an abundance of cooling linen and suede overshirts, the latter designed for “when you’ve unexpectedly stayed out longer in the evening and need to throw on something a little warmer that you can easily pack in your bag,” the pair explain, clearly referencing their own experiences of summers spent exploring. Tennant continues, “these are clothes for people who want to ride, walk and climb and experience the remoteness of locations untouched by modern life. That to me is a luxury: to find places in the world that haven’t been trodden on, developed and spoilt.” 

This isn’t to say that Tennant and Cawdor are only aiming to target a countrified existence, for the clothes that they have created are just as wearable for a day out in the city as any grassier or sandier terrain. “We absolutely want to continue to provide these kinds of very traditional outdoor clothes for Holland & Holland, but we want to broaden the appeal so it’s not so specifically only for that market. We want people to wear them for an active city life: walking, cycling your bicycle. But we never want to push a square peg into a round hole – we want things to evolve naturally. So let’s just wait and see what happens next!”