In The Magazine

An Englishman In Africa

Friday, May 22, 2015

HOLLAND & HOLLAND is an Upper East Side favorite for those seeking some English sensibility in New York. The man behind the brand, creative director Niels van Rooyen, counts on his annual pilgrimage to South Africa to help him keep delivering a fresh vision to the brand’s loyal fans.

Return to Africa . . .

I have been so lucky: I have traveled all over the world both personally and professionally, but despite the many wonderful and breathtaking places I have visited, my favorite is, and always will be, the savanna plains in Kruger National Park.

When on the savanna plains. . .

We always stay in field camps. I always travel with my best friend, who is a field guide and a conservationist—if there is anyone who can teach me anything about the wildlife of the African bush, it is him. We like to go on safari; my aim is always to try and see the big five. [The big five game are the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and rhinoceros.] I enjoy bird-watching, learning more about the flora and fauna, and just generally enjoy the peace and serenity of the bush.

The scene . . .

When I have stayed at lodges around the world, there is inevitably a New Yorker or two in the crowd, and they all know about Holland & Holland. Yes, there have been celebrities too . . . but true to Holland & Holland’s policy, discretion is important, and they will remain nameless.

I can’t travel without . . .

Some years ago I received a kikoy from my friends in Kenya. It is a cotton wraparound, traditional worn by men on the Swahili coast of East Africa. Today, the kikoy has evolved as a woman’s wraparound as well. They are so soft, colorful and vibrant that you can use one as a beach wrap, a scarf, a shawl or even as a picnic cloth!

Favorite find . . .

A hand-carved wooden mask from a visit to the Ndebele tribe; they are from a part of South Africa near Kruger National Park.

Words to live by . . .

My motto is to travel light.

We’ll be seeing you . . .

Traveling is so educational, and a true inspiration to me. I always seek a story, and I inevitably find it in my travels. The big five and the flora and fauna of the bush are unescapably prominent in my clothing collections. A visit to Namibia stimulated my enthusiasm to use it as a destination for a photo shoot. A visit to India inspired the maharaja story of Spring/Summer 2014. A walk through the deer of Richmond Park in London led to a collection themed on the stag.


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by Debbie BancroftPhotographed by Griffin Lipson and Hunter Abrams/