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My money… Henry Holland

The designer on earning £2.50 as a waiter and how a £500 loan helped kick-start his fashion empire

What was your first job?

I was a waiter in a tea shop when I was 14. I earned £2.50 an hour plus tips. This was pre the living wage. I spent the money on clothes from Topman, and then when I started drinking it went towards my Saturday night fund.

What’s been your best investment?

My business. I started in 2006 with a loan of £500 from my mother, which paid for my first round of T-shirts. I started buying them wholesale and printing on those, and we had strong sales from day one. The first places that sold the T-shirts were Harvey Nichols and Barneys in New York. I had those as stockists while I was still working full time as fashion editor at Smash Hits magazine. I had a lot of contacts from going to nightclubs and met a lot of designers through that.

Did you make any mistakes with your business?

Loads, but you have to learn from your mistakes. I overspent on developing collections without a strict handle on budgets because I wanted the collections to look, and feel, as premium as possible. But you build up an understanding that you need to rein that back and only work on developing the ideas that are going to monetise themselves one way or another. I started the company when I was 24. I’m 35 now, and it’s been a learning curve.

What would be your money no object purchase?

A house in Norfolk. I enjoy living in the city but I’d like a bit of peace and tranquillity sometimes.

What luxury wouldn’t you give up?

Clothes. As much as I make clothes I like buying them as well. I buy pieces that I like, rather than based on who the designer is. I like keeping an open mind and buying from smaller designers, big names and Topman, Uniqlo and other high street shops.

What’s been your biggest financial regret?

Getting my first credit card. I got it when I was 18 and maxed it out in the first month. I’m not very good at planning ahead. If there is any availability, I will spend it. I paid off my student loans and credit cards when I was 30. I still use credit cards but move the balance around from one zero per cent deal to the next.

Are you a spender or a saver?

A spender. I’d rather spend for a month and then be skint for a month rather than keep some money aside for a rainy day fund — because it might never rain. I’m very impulsive.

Are you savvy with your personal finances?

I’m different with my business, but even with that I need support around me to make sure everything is structured. In my personal life I’m very much feast or famine and I don’t have a pension — my only investment has been my house. My mum is similar to me and my dad is much more conservative. He’s had the same job since he was 21 and has various pensions. My mum has no desire to leave anything behind for me.

What was your last impulse purchase?

A pair of trainers. I went for a meeting in a department store and got sucked into their PR spin and ended up buying a pair of Balenciaga trainers. They’d just launched them and were selling to me hard. The assistant earned the commission.

Cash or card?

I use Apple Pay and it’s easy to keep track on my phone. Now that taxis accept cards, I don’t use cash for anything. Whenever I go home my dad always asks if I’ve got any cash on me and I say no because no one uses it. It gives him a panic that I’m out without cash, so he puts £20 in my pocket in case of emergencies. I say there aren’t any emergencies you can’t handle with a card but I still take the £20.

Henry has collaborated with Vype to launch the new ePen 3,