I spoke with the inspirational Helen Woollams, the brainchild behind the brand Hellavagirl. We talked about her insight, from cradle to grave, into the design process. Here’s what she had to say…
“Fashion Intrigues me. I am fascinated
by people and how and what we try to express through our clothes. I am infatuated with the notion that our individuality can
be expressed through what we decide to throw on in the morning or obsess over for an event.
I launched Hellavagirl after many years as a freelance designer. I wanted to have complete creative vision. The last few years have been insane and seen the label grow from a small set up in my spare bedroom, to a light and airy studio and the team grow with it! There’s so much more to running a label than just designing and creating the collections. It has been, and continues to be, a sharp creative learning curve. However, I am nothing if not determined”
Could you tell us about your creative process and thought pattern when you conceptualise a new collection?
Before one collection is put to bed, I am already thinking about the next. There will be something I stumbled across in one collection, which in uences and inspires me to develop and explore further. Almost like continuing chapters. I hunt and gather obsessively and I am inspired by allsorts.
I collect images, objects, music and lms. From that starting point I build a story, draw and sketch away the evenings into the small hours, while I attempt to illustrate what’s in my mind. I can’t wait for my ideas come to life, so once I’ve decided on the rst ten or so looks, I begin to cut the pieces. I have a passionate love hate relationship with my work. A huge number of ideas end up
on the cutting room oor and very few develop into nal pieces. The process is
all consuming, you could say obsessive to anyone observing. I am an all or nothing person. Every ounce of my energy goes into what I do and afterwards I feel exhausted, drained, tipped over the edge. I love that empty, dull ache in the pit of your stomach and that’s when know I have given everything. Then it’s time to start again and fresh ideas are already tick, tick, ticking away inside me.
Do you ever become unstuck creatively?
I nd I have the opposite problem. I
get frustrated when I cannot edit ideas, because they are too many and keep me awake at night. I could be working on two collections at a time, even three. However, I think this is about being inspired by what surrounds you. I can be inspired by touch, smell or something which ignites a memory in me and I start to build and elaborate on these ideas to develop a collection. If you have a mental block, you need to forget what you are trying to achieve and ll yourself with passion and desire. I do this by going to a quiet space and clearing my head. I focus on what it is I love, take time out to think and inspiration usually follows.
Tell us what your creative goals and in uences were behind your latest collection, The Last Dawn on Mars, ‘A post-apocalyptic inspired couture collection with dark undertones and a regal rock and roll edge.’?
Does exactly what it says on the tin right? I attempted to steer away from the all black everything, which has heavily in uenced my earlier collections. OK, so it crept back in there but it always will, like a shadow of me. I was listening to a great deal of Bowie whilst sketching up the looks and I think you can see that in uence in the nal pieces.
We’ve seen that quite a lot of your pieces use black as a major theme in their design. Why is this?
I find that black is my safe place, but it’s also a look and feel that I love. I’m exploring outside of my comfort zone now for the new collections. I could happily create in black season after season, but that just feels too easy and if you know me, you would know nothing I do is ever easy. I would hate to be thought of as one dimensional.
Congratulations on your debut show at Fashion Scout. We certainly enjoyed it! How did you feel in the run up to the show?
Thank you! In all honesty, although it was such an exciting time leading up to the show, all the hard work and preparation, it was one of my most daunting times. I was so nervous, but I always am before a show. You need that adrenalin to get pumped up! I always try to embrace the nerves and the challenge is not to freak out so much that nothing gets done. I loved every minute of it, it was an exhilarating experience!
Looking back Helen, what was the inspiration behind the name “Hellavagirl”?
The most in uential teacher in my life was an awesome artist called Carol Tarrant. She once sent me a message on my Birthday which read: “Happy Birthday Hell of a Girl.” I was just on the verge of branching out on my own creatively and it stuck. Simple but true.
Your designs, if you don’t mind us saying, are bold and cutting edge. Is there anyone who you think ‘I’d love to design and dress for them’?
Not at all and yes I would love to dress for Lady Gaga, Madonna, Marilyn – Manson, not Monroe! Unfortunately, if I was asked this question a year ago, there would be more on the list but sadly they passed before I had the chance #Bowie #Prince.
Will you be branching into menswear and would you call it Hellavaboy?
I have some big plans for the year ahead and yes these involve delving into menswear. It’s another challenge and an idea I have been toying with for a while now and so you heard it here rst. As for the name, I’m working on that 😉