Sunday, 15 September 2013

Designer, artist, ex-thrash metal band member - Woman of Steele.

The morning that met me today was cold and windy. Summer is most assuredly over. I awoke dizzy with a fever and heavy-hearted with longing. London gets to have both Fashion Week and my boyfriend and I cannot be there. Despite the knowledge that the journey to see him all this year is less than that to parts of my own country and despite the fact that his being there offers me a place to stay when I go to next season's fashion week (Woop for February!), I ache all over. I hate goodbyes. There is rarely anything good about them. 

And then my day picks up. He sends me a text that is so very him that I smile through a coughing fit. I find out that I'm shortlisted in the Irish Blog Awards 2013 Best Fashion/Beauty Blog category. (And have been for over ten days now. I would not have known if I hadn't seen someone else post about it and thought to myself, "Gee, I haven't heard from those guys. I guess I didn't get anywhere in the contest. I wonder who did?") 

To round the day off rather wonderfully, the talented artist and designer Helen Steele gets back to me for our interview. 

Silver lining, today you have a Steeley shine. 

W: I read that you were in a thrash metal band and couldn't believe that the interviewer didn't follow up on that! What bands are you in to and is music a source of inspiration for your designs?

H:I was in a thrash metal band called Woocher for three years. It was a art college experimental band that was hilarious, mental , but a lot of fun. My taste in music is pretty odd I think. For example, I love the Fleet Foxes and the Foo Fighters, Blur (Damon Albarn is a genius) Gorillaz, Antony Hegarty, Serge Gainsbourg and the music that his daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg created with Beck was pretty cool. I love Bell X1, Marilyn Manson, Placebo, Dirty Epics, Christy Moore, U2, Gavin Friday and Lisa Hannigan.

W: You've talked about the balance of creativity and commercial appeal in your designs before, do you think a couture line would make this an easier and would you tackle couture if you were given the opportunity?

I feel that some of the commissions and made-to-order pieces that I have done and am currently creating for people in the music and film industry are pretty close to couture. So, that's as close as I can get to it at the moment. But yes, it's something I would love to do. I did create a wind-blown canvas dress for the Cadbury Crispello advert that was pretty close to couture , as it was hours and hours of layering of wind blown paint that it took to create the piece.

When beginning with a collection, where do you start? How do you come up with an overarching theme or idea?

H: Each collection process starts with a theme and colour palette and moodboards - like a little story book. I consider what the market demands and what I perceive to be lacking in the market and design around this. Each of my prints are individually created using a palette of selected colours which I blast into the air and then capture this process on camera. This is the foundation of each print - capturing paint when its alive, wet, moving, flowing. For this AW13 collection, I tried to create prints that looked like droplets of rain with reflections of autumn  leaves within each droplet. I also tried to create some prints that told an abstract story of autumn.

Helen Steele A/W 2013 (via

W: Who is your girl? You've said before that you want anyone to be able to wear your clothes but when your clothes are in the early stages of the design process do you imagine a particular girl with certain aims, priorities or lifestyle?

H: The girl/woman I design for goes from many extremes; she is a woman who works in music, film, art, fashion, aviation, law, and in the home. She travels, works hard, and needs something different, directional, yet practical, that makes her feel good from the moment she slips the piece over her head until she goes to bed. This woman is Asian, Arabian, African American, African European, European, or Irish, so I try to create with all of this in mind.

Helen Steele A/W 2013 (via

W: Similarly, if you had to describe your design aesthetic in three words, what would they be?

H: My design aesthetic would have to be bright, bold, and free.

W: Who would be your ideal campaign girl?

H: .My ideal campaign girl would be Cara Delevingne, (who has, in the past, worn a few of my pieces - as has her pal, Rita Ora) Lenny Kravitz (he would look amazing in one of my kaftans) and Grace Coddington .

Rita Ora in Joanne Hynes/Helen Steele A/W 2011 (via Coolspotters)

W: Which designers do you admire most?

H: I admire the work of Simone Rocha and her father, John Rocha, and Tim Ryan, Eilis Boyle, Honor Fitzsimons and Lisa Shawgi (knitwear designer) .

W: What do you feel are the basics that every woman should have in her wardrobe?

H: Basics, for me, in a wardrobe are; good jeans that fit and flatter the figure, comfortable trainers, a couple of good shirts, and, if you live here in the winter, a good parka. And something from Helen Steele of course!

Nicola Roberts in Joanne Hynes/Helen Steele A/W 2011 (via Coolspotters)

W: Is there anything you think fashion needs to see less of?

H: The industry needs to produce more ethically. Check out eco-fashion-warrior Rosie O'Reilly's work and the work of Re-dress. Going forward, I will be producing a capsule collection each season, no more mass-production.

W: Finally, would you be interested in collaborating with a highstreet store, as we see more and more of that, if it came your way? Who do you imagine you could work best with?
H:I would love to work with Topshop (who wouldn't) or Dunnes - like a street/sportswear mini-collection that can be worn on the street or working out.

And here's hoping Helen gets such an opportunity in the future! I'd love to add some Helen Steele pieces to my wardrobe essentials! Check her ouuutttt.

PS Thanks and love to anyone who nominated me x

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