Interview with Olivia Henderson #STARTTHERIOT


You may have started to see all of these political slogan T-shirts pop up around fashion week on models, shot by bloggers, on Street Style features and daily style reports, well Style Voyeur has got the SCOOP on the lady who created them, what they’re all about and who is determined to #starttheriot!

Olivia Henderson above with her T-shirts that caught the eye of famed fashion Stylist and Costume Designer, Patricia Field when I wore one of them to interview the Sex & The City style maven. I received an email today from Patricia herself, direct from New York asking to get in touch with Olivia so WATCH THIS SPACE for more on that. So exciting! You heard it here first 🙂


Name: Ollie Henderson

Age: 23

Hometown: Creswick, Victoria

Current Location: Usually NYC, Currently Sydney

What first got you into political activism?

Apart from signing a few petitions here and there or going to the occasional rally, this is my first project of political activism. I also work as an artist, most of my work has a strong feminist edge, but this is the first project that I have felt might make a difference.

This project was sparked by living abroad and having too many people (Europeans and Americans) comment on the issues of Racism in Australia. What happened to the days when Australia was known for being laid back and friendly, now we are seen as racist and uneducated. WHAT!!?? Obviously this is very upsetting. I was also sick of the Australian Government making decisions on my behalf that I am 100% against. I love Australia and I want to be proud of what we are doing as a nation.


Model Amanda Ware (above) from Australia’s Next Top Model and (above this) a model also wearing an Olivia Henderson T-shirt photographed for by Tommy Ton at MBFWA

Do you recall the first cause you found yourself extremely passionate about?

Yes, I came out when I was 17, it was fortunately not really an issue for me, I never felt uncomfortable or ashamed of telling people. But seeing those around me in the LGBTI community struggle and hearing their stories made me feel very passionate about the injustice.


How did Start The Riot begin? What is it all about?

The idea started in New York reading the news in Australia and not being very happy about it. The aim of the project is to encourage young people to become politically aware and involved. To share the message that anyone can make a difference, even if it is something small like making a T-shirt at home and sharing your thoughts, or reposting an article on Facebook. These things might not seem very big but it can be the start of something. Being brave enough to start the conversation, even with friends, can be a daunting thing.


What is your end goal with the political slogan T-shirts?

My aim for the T-shirts is to have as many people wearing them at Australian Fashion Week (MBFWA) as possible. Fashion week is designed to be a press frenzy, I felt it was the best way, as a model, that I could share the message. The power of press in magazines and blogs (the modern magazine) is great.

Everybody wearing a T-shirt is given them for free and encouraged to come up with their own slogan or at least pick one from the pre made T-shirt, I want this project to be about people sharing their own thoughts rather than me imposing my views on others.

Due to the large interest from Interstate and International supporters I hopefully will be continuing the project after fashion week, selling the T-shirts, with profits going to the charities of the issues discussed on the shirts.


You mentioned you were making a zine — what is that all about?

I wanted to have a Zine with the T-shrits to further inform people of whats going on in the world. The T-shirts might spark the idea, the Zine is where you can get more information on what’s going on and how you can get involved.


How can Style Voyeur readers get a hold of the t-shirts and the zine?

If you are at MBFWA yes. Come find me at the event and you can have both. If not, hopefully this project will continue and readers will have access soon. Watch this space!


In general, what do you hope to accomplish with this project?

To give people the confidence to feel that they can make a difference too.

Is there a particular reason you have picked Fashion Week to have people wear the t-shirts/debut the zine?

Any model will tell you, as soon as you step out of the backstage area (even in the backstage area), you are swamped with photographers taking your picture and asking what you are wearing. I would rather say I’m wearing “Support Gay Marriage” than any designer.


Who do you aim to involve in this project? (For example, we’ve seen model Sarah Pauley wear the t-shirt on Instagram)

Anyone and everyone who wants to help. The support has been overwhelming. Models wearing the T-shirts, photographers organising shoots, videographers doing films, writers working on the zine, artists contributing images, musicians making political playlists and just people talking about it and spreading the word.


You have said the T-shirts — a series of 50-100 — will bear “positive political slogans” such as ‘Support Gay Marriage’ and ‘Welcome Refugees, Save Lives’, and that you want everything to “feel really positive.” One of the shirts various models have been photographed wearing bears the statement ‘Tony Abbott Puts The N In Cuts’. While we’re not saying we disagree with this statement, do you believe that a message like this is a positive one?

No, this statement is not particularly positive, but as I said earlier, people are coming up with their own slogans, this might fell very positive for them.


How should young people, who perhaps do not know where to begin, start fighting for causes they are passionate about?

Read about it. Get online and get informed. Sign up for e-newsletters and follow Facebook pages of people discussing issues you care about. Talk to others, share your learnings and discuss ideas. This might sound like nothing but it’s a strong starting point, you have to know what you’re fighting about. You’ll find out how to go further along the way.


What are some of the causes you support, and how?

As I said earlier, this is the first big thing I have done. I support the ACF (Australian Conservation Foundation) with monthly donations and Birthday and Christmas gifts are often through Oxfam. You can buy someone the gift of clean water for a whole school in Columbia for $98 (gift cards start at $10 for a chicken), much better than giving socks.

Is there were one message you could get across to all our readers this instant, what would it be?

Be brave!


Street style images by Tommy Ton for and Luke Latty for Pedestrian TV

All other images by Liz Ham

Join the group and #starttheriot on Facebook HERE

‘Til next time,

xxx SV xxx


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