Ollie Henderson: the model on a mission

4 min read

Meet Ollie Henderson, a young Aussie on a mission to make the world a better place through the House of Riot, her not-for-profit initiative that aims to get young people motivated to make a difference. 

Ollie Henderson defies every fashion model stereotype you care to come up with. In between modelling commitments, she established the social enterprise, House of Riot, to inspire her peers to make an impact within their communities. Her mission is to get young people to get out of their and social apathy and slip into something a little more radical.

You’re a model and a political activist. That’s not a common combination. What led you to develop House of Riot.

It all started with anger and frustration, and my belief that things can be different. I had been living in New York, working as a model. I was really worried about issues like climate change, gender inequality and the treatment of asylum seekers. Then in 2014, I was invited to Australian Fashion Week. I knew this event would get a lot of press and public attention. As someone who works in the fashion industry, I had a simple idea. I created 100 T-shirts with positive political messages about issues I am worried about. Each of the T-shirts had unique messages promoting equality, openness, care for the environment, unity and freedom. They included slogans such as ‘Save the reef’, ‘Love is Love’ or ‘Sexism Sucks’.

And that was how House of Riot was born?

Yes. I didn’t expect this project to receive so much attention. I was surprised, but I also knew I was onto something. Australian Fashion Week lasted only a week, obviously, but I wanted to create an impact that lingered longer. I wanted to politically engage other young people and also inspire them through my own work. So I started the House of Riot. We continue to produce T-shirts, with local artists and using responsible resources. We are collaborating with charities such as Amnesty International, One Girl, and Global Cool Foundation. We are a youth-led community and we are also running a zine and events.

What makes fashion a particularly powerful tool to drive social change?

Fashion is an instant way of communicating ideas. Even if you don’t think you’re into fashion, you own clothes. We all wear something every day and people look at them. My job as a model made me particularly aware of this. Fashion might not be directly political, but the more I work in this sector, the more apparent this intersection becomes. We can use clothes to shift attitudes and societal norms. Fashion has a rebellious nature in itself and it can be a good place to start for social transformation.

What makes today’s 20-somethings uniquely positioned to change the world?

I think it’s because we are living in such a connected world. Our generation knows this and uses it well. Anyone who can use the internet and connect to other people has the necessary skills to do something for their own causes. And do it, by the way – it’s so much fun!

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This information is current as at 16/12/2016.

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