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Helena Fredriksson: A Cut Above

"If you can’t find the stuff you want, or you can’t afford them, you make them…"

Helena Fredriksson is back at her apartment after having just shown her Fall ’07 Collection at New York Fashion Week, and she’s already thinking about the Spring ’08 Collection. As we sit down to talk, she says, “The exciting part is to find the concept and a sort of basis for the next collection.” Helena, who moved to New York from her native Gothenburg when she was 19, lives with her husband Mike, who is a musician, in a loft in hip Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Two years ago, at the young age of 28, she first showed her work at New York Fashion Week and has been creating critically acclaimed designs ever since.

When asked about her decision to become a designer, she explains, “It always made sense to me. Mom made clothes for us when we were kids, so it was always something that felt natural. If you can’t find the stuff you want, or you can’t afford them, you make them…. [Becoming a designer] was something that naturally happened and I just kept doing, and then I slowly realized that I could make something bigger out of this instead of just making clothes for me and my friends.”

What makes Helena’s approach interesting is that she doesn’t look to the design climate to tell her what she should create. Her ambition is not to find the hot new trend but to make well-made, beautiful garments. She is self-taught, which gives her a different kind of relationship to the clothes. “We have sewing classes in Sweden (starting when) you are 10, so that’s where I learned the basics, and then I just kind of cut apart and opened pieces and figured out how things were constructed. I am always that kind of person who likes to know how things are put together. I want to understand everything…I want to figure out why things are the way they are and look the way they do, and I think that’s part of figuring out how a garment is constructed and learning why certain shapes fall the way they do.” Because she has learned how to construct clothes on her own, by observation and trial and error, Helena’s curiosity extends beyond the normal design-based influences. She makes her own connection between art, movies, nature, and photography, absorbs what she is inspired by, and then, acting as a sieve, lets the influences flow through her work.

For Fall ’07 she credits a few specific things that inspired the collection: “My friends got married in France, so we were in the south of France and Paris in May, and I saw the furniture exhibit from the Art Nouveau period at the Museum D’ Orsay. That really inspired me in terms of shape and graphics. Sort of a softer, rounder feel.” But France was not the only the trip that stimulated. “I was in Mexico and also the West Indies. There were a lot of sunsets, and I [noticed] the layering of the colors--all the panel pieces in the collection come from that, where you sort of see the sky and the sea in between color blocks…. Small realizations sort of stay with you.”

Helena wants to make clothes that women actually wear. “I am a woman…and I want to know that the pieces I make feel good to wear and make you feel sort of strong and individual and independent. I think some designers who are men look at a piece more as art than something to actually be functional in use…which is fair enough because maybe it is just for wearing once at a gala night, and it doesn’t need to be wearable all the time. But I like my clothing to be on bodies rather than in the closet looking pretty... I want it to be part of people’s lives.”

Look for more information on Helena’s designs and availability at www.Hfredricksson.com.

Written by Ingrid L. Nilsen
Photography: Henrik Olund

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