Monday, 12 April 2010

Excavations and Blurring Boundaries

Having graduated from Bournemouth Arts Institute in 2009, Harald Lunde Helgsen has since caught the attention of the global fashion world with his debut graduate collection, 2509 BC, an exploration of colour separation and conceptualized by the focus on eastern archeologists. The research and process is like a metaphorically sift through layers to find the hidden treasure. Inspired by eastern influences, the collection also gives a complimentary nod to western influences also. HLH took time out to discuss Hyeres Fashion and Photography Awards, catching the gaze of fashion writers Diane Pernet and Jefferson Hack and his latest collaboration…

When you first meet Harald, his approach and character lead you to feel incredibly endeared towards him. Wearing his trademark black leather baseball cap, red Russian flower scarf and pink adidas jacket he giggles and smiles profusely as he talks about his debut graduate collection which has gained such great recognition. At 24, the Belgium graduate seems sweet, shy and very modest on his great success in the often overcrowded fashion industry. Rory Straton of fashion brand Self-Service was attracted to both his collection and charming manner, revealing “I really like the work of Harald… he’s a really sweet guy”.

So what compels Helgesen to design? “I don’t really feel compelled to design; ‘doing’ fashion is more of a choice of vehicle for my ideas. The culture of fashion reaches everyone and exists in so many different levels. I feel I have chosen a field in which I can always develop and grow, even change direction without abandoning what I have built up so far”. With the fashion field being interpreted as a creative outlet, HLH seems liberated by the lack of constrictions and boundaries often placed on designers. Was this outlook honed in his three years studying at the seaside resort of Bournemouth? “Competition was not really an issue in Bournemouth; we had to look somewhere else for motivation and inspirations. We had to search within ourselves, where inspiration and influences are around you all the time. I think the output is more interesting coming from a place inside instead of being a mix of outside influences”. So was it a good or bad thing that he learnt his trade outside of the fashion hub of London? He ponders and reveals, “When I am looking back at it now, I think it was a good thing”.

It seemed stitching and sowing in Britain’s ‘sunshine strip’ did pay off, with an invite, showcase and scooping the ‘Swarovski Elements Award’ bringing HLH to the attention of fellow Belgium designer and artistic director of Dior Homme, Kris Van Assche, I-D and Dazed and Confused founder and fashion writer, Jefferson Hack and French film director, Jean-Pierre Blanc. On the Hyeres Fashion and Photography Awards, Harald divulged,

“It was an amazing experience from beginning to end. I don’t think you can get a better start of a career in fashion. Having the interest from such great personalities for a week in the beautiful surroundings of the Villa Noailles was fantastic!”

With previous designer greats such as Viktor&Rolf and Charles Anastace winning the Grand Prix award, ‘The Swarovski Elements Award’ was new to Hyeres in 2009. “The jury said the criterion for this award was creativity, so I was very happy to have won it, especially as I didn’t use any crystals in my collection!” giggles Helgesen. Van Assche spoke of the event, “Something creative happened in every corner of the house… It is a very interesting project; it is not just clothing or performance or something artistic it encompasses everything” Set in the idyllic and picturesque southern France countryside, the Awards looked at ten fresh new designers and photographers, unique to the scene in 2009. Not only allowing the designers a creative stage to showcase, Helgesen was also permitted to create a capsule perfume to create a ‘spirit’ to his collection. “The scent I created in collaboration with one of the ‘noses’ at Givadan is perfect. To have my collection and concept translated into scent was another dimension which really completed the supported package to the showcasing of my collection. Music, lighting, choreography, a garden show room and perfume created an experience for all the senses!”

Having caught the interest of great fashion writer, Diane Pernet in Hyeres, how did it feel to have gained such great recognition for the graduate collection 2509 BC? “I love Diane Pernet, her work and what she represents in the world of fashion – and she has the coolest voice in the industry! This kind of recognition has helped me to believe I have a place in the industry, which very often seems overcrowded…”

So what now for 2010? “The past few months I have been working on a project with a dance company in France. Working for stage production has made me be able to explore ideas in relation to fashion and dressing I didn’t think conventional contexts of fashion would allow. I have worked with pieces made to be worn by several people at the same time, geometric shapes, which zip together to form coats or little houses and garments which blur the boundaries of where one body stops and another one starts, fusing groups of people together as one.”

“The première of the dance show is being held in Marseille in July. I ‘m working on a new collection and in 2010 will work towards getting the business and production up and running- I find this part of the job fun, I get to pretend to be a businessman!”