Five Minutes with Ollie Henderson (House Of Riot)
A chat with the brains behind not-for-profit organisation highlighting social issues around the globe.
Words by Maile Shanti.
What begun as a Do-It-Yourself project, House Of Riot is now a huge not-for-profit social enterprise raising awareness around political and environmental issues. Founded by local Australian model Ollie Henderson, she set out to make a change after feuding on political frustration and how little was being done about it, hand-painting tees and sharing them backstage to models during fashion week in Sydney. Ollie spoke to us about her inspirations behind House Of Riot and their future plans.
Explain the concept behind House of Riot and what inspired you to start?
It’s our mission is to continue to bring about social change through creative expression and to encourage young people to take action on the issues that they care about. House Of Riot started as an extended art project fuelled by political frustration. It began at Australian Fashion Week 2014 when I hand painted 100 t-shirts with positive messages that focused on equality, openness, care for the environment, unity and freedom. These were distributed to both members of the industry and the public in a bid to start productive conversations about social change in Australia.
House Of Riot has now grown from a creative project to a not-for-profit social enterprise; continuing to sell the iconic slogan t-shirts and now other handmade apparel. Twenty percent of profits from t-shirt sales are donated to charitable organisations including Amnesty International, Twenty10, One Girl and The Global Cool Foundation. In addition to forming direct relationships with charity organisations House of Riot regularly runs a program that provides local artists with the opportunity to use their skills to produce projects that engage and educate young people about a variety of social and political issues.
Since launching, what has the reaction been like?
Overwhelmingly positive. The initial launch captured the attention of global media including US Vogue, US Harper’s Bazaar, French Elle, Brazilian Elle, Nylon Japan and Style.com. On a more personal level the support I've had from my friends and individuals has been paramount, I'm so grateful for all the people who have backed House Of Riot.
House of Riot is a not-for-profit organisation, you work closely with charitable groups, how do you decide which ones to work with?
We currently donate part profits to One Girl, Amnesty International, Twenty10 and The Global Cool Foundation. We select organisations work in areas reflecting the issues on our t-shirts.
Why do you think the reaction to HOR has been so big?
Youth are often labeled apathetic, but I really don't think that is the case. I think for many young people they just haven't found their voice, don't have information that's suited to them or perhaps they just don't really know what they can do. I hope that House Of Riot offers a new way for people to engage.
You have just recently collaborated with ‘Sexual Violence Won’t Be Silenced’, tell us more about your involvement with that?
I have made a t-shirt for Sexual Violence Won't Be Silenced with the slogan 'Shameless Slut'. Their goal is to combat online sexual harassment, particularly directed towards women. The 'Shameless Slut' tee reclaims the word slut, traditionally only used against women to humiliate them for their sexuality. This shirt gives women the opportunity to define themselves. The expectation and dictation of women bodies and sexuality must stop. 100% of profits from these t-shirts goes back to SVWBS to assist them with their campaigning.
What are your future plans for House Of Riot?
House Of Riot is growing so fast it’s difficult to keep up. Last month we hosted our first event On The Floor, this was an interactive panel discussion tackling The Future of Sydney’s Nightlife. With the huge success of this event we will now be teaming up with Vibewire to run Election Wire, more interactive panels running bi-monthly leading up to the next federal election, our first will be on Climate Change in November.
We will also be continuing our work in fashion with more designs coming out soon.