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Texprint 2014: Meet the Judges, Henry Graham

10 June 2014 by Jainnie Cho in Fashion, Sponsors, Judges & Champions

We talk to Henry Graham, Chief Creative Officer of Wolf & Badger, a London-based retail concept that is specifically designed to support new talent.

For new designers, Wolf & Badger is a very exciting prospect indeed. Back in 2009, when the global financial crisis was still in full flow, the Wolf & Badger founders – brothers Henry and George Graham – did the last thing that many would have done at such a time and launched their business. With little more than a brilliant idea, they boldly decided to dive into fashion retail, a sector in which neither of them had experience.

Wolf & Badger, based in London, is described as a “serviced retail” business, promoting and supporting young brands that might otherwise struggle to get their businesses off the ground. Its boutiques give designers or brands the opportunity to feature their products in their stores and online in return for a small monthly license fee. There is no middleman. Wolf & Badger takes a small commission, allowing the designers to keep the majority of any sales.

The brothers seem to have a knack for spotting promising new talent: young designers featured in their boutiques often go on to greater things. One such designer is Texprint and Royal College of Art alumna Emma J Shipley, whose line of signature scarves was launched at Wolf & Badger in 2011. That makes Henry Graham a perfect addition to Texprint’s judging panel for 2014.

Alumna Emma J Shipley on her Texprint stand at Indigo Paris 2011

Wolf & Badger was named one of Britain’s best boutiques by Vogue in 2010 and received the Brand of Tomorrow award from Walpole in 2011, among other accolades. The success of the first boutique in Notting Hill and online sales led to the opening of a new flagship store on prestigious Dover Street, Mayfair, in 2012.

Texprint caught up with Henry Graham to discuss textile design, talent spotting and the story behind Wolf & Badger.

What are the elements of good textile design? What makes a great textile designer?

Good textile design must be able to work within a creative context and be easily understood from several angles. A great textile designer is an artist and an inventor that translates their inspiration from life into two dimensions, ready for another artisan to recreate it into something new.

What will you be looking for as a judge at Texprint?

I will be looking for originality in the design and placement of the prints as well as understanding how the textiles can be utilised across different mediums. The best quality for young designers to have is to be confident and trust their own judgment.

What was your background before launching Wolf & Badger? Why did you decide to go into fashion retail?

I had pretty much always worked for myself, although it was primarily in the retail property sector rather than retail on the operational side or in fashion specifically.

Having said that, I have always been very inspired by and interested in clothes and all things design-led as well as having a good visual memory. When the recession came about George and I realised there was an opportunity to create a serviced retail platform where independent brands could sell direct to the consumer and share their own boutique. Since launching we now have two London stores in Notting Hill and Mayfair and a successful e-commerce site. 

Wolf & Badger is often referred to as a “serviced retail” business – can you elaborate on your business model? 

In consideration for a modest monthly fee from the designers we work with, we provide a seal of approval since we are known to be extremely selective in choosing which brands we work with and provide creative advice. We also showcase a capsule collection of their products in our stores and online; lend key pieces to press, stylists and bloggers; allow the designers to host trunk shows and private events in store; and also introduce them to trade buyers from major department stores and boutiques worldwide.

When we sell items on their behalf we take a commission of only 18%, thus enabling them to cut out the middleman and sell direct to the consumer. We also provide monthly reporting about what customers are saying about their collections and which pieces are being well received thus helping inform their design process.

How do you see Britain’s fashion retail sector develop in the future?

The trend is for fewer but bigger large chains that will benefit from economies of scale, and a reduction in the number of independent boutiques.

What is it like working so closely with your brother? How are your personalities and work ethic similar or different?

It is generally good working with my brother, as we understand each other's personalities. Having said that, we do argue sometimes! I am not sure if that is because we are partners or brothers. I am quiet and he isn't, so at least we are not both talking at the same time, so I would say our personalities are quite complementary. In terms of work ethic we are similar in that we both tend to respond extremely well to pressure. When things get hard or there is a deadline, then we achieve the best results. 

As chief creative officer, what are the colours, textures and design themes that are inspiring you right now?  

I think there continues to be a movement away from fit and structure and toward relaxed shapes and easy fitting pieces. There has also been a resurgence of embellishment, texture and theatre in textile design. I guess I would say that there is a movement toward eclecticism.

What are some of your favourite London fashion shops?

I like Rake, which is a wonderful clothes store selling menswear. They are based on Duke Street. Their clothes are very well made and the designs are fabulous and well fitting. I also like ACNE, which is on Dover Street where we have a store. They have great staff and products.

Finally, do you have any plans for Wolf & Badger to go global?

Very much so, we are currently working hard on our international expansion plans. Watch this space!

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