Ones To Watch : KALTBLUT Magazine meets Sarah Hellen
KALTBULT magazine was lucky enough to meet Welsh designer Sarah Hellen for this short informal interview on her inspirations and plans for her menswear fashion label. With her core focus on traditional Welsh craftsmanship, Sarah has modernised what could normally be seen as old fashioned. Creating something dynamic, fresh and wearable. Were totally in love with her collections use of colour and materials and see a vibrant future for this new designer.
KALTBLUT: So Sarah can you talk us though your inspiration behind your current collection?
SARAH: My current collection is inspired by my hometown Wrexham in North Wales There’s a lot of characters in the town and always quite amusing local news stories in the papers, so I wanted to bring that sense of light heartedness that portrays the town quite well into my designs. I did this by working with a really great illustrator Alex Melon, who took stories such as ‘The guy who took his pony on the train’ and the ‘Riot in the Poundland Half Price sale’ and turned them into character narrative illustrations. I then use these across knit patterns and quilting designs as well as incorporating the typical Wrexham greeting of ‘Alright la’ as my kind of slogan. I took the colour palette and graphics inspiration from an old Wrexham football badge I found on Ebay and garment references from a big box of old family photographs and newspaper cuttings my Dad keeps, as well as mixing it in with this kind of chavvy, sports casual Wrexham style. So hopefully, in my own way, my clothes are a nod to my hometown and are a representation of what I love about it!
KALTBLUT: What are your biggest design influences?
SARAH:During my Masters Degree at Kingston I started really looking into traditional arts, crafts and textiles in Wales and became fascinated by the history of craftsmanship, resources and how the textile industry was once so integral in so many communities across Wales but has since depleted massively. I think once I get hooked on an idea, I really immerse myself in it. I went to craft fairs, wool exhibitions, visited woolen mills, museums and took in as much information as possible. The more research I did and people I met, the more ideas I would get as to how I could use all of this material and develop it into the beginning of my own brand. I wanted to draw on the amazing history of crafts in Wales and redesign them into a contemporary context. I met some really amazing craftspeople and began forming collaborative relationships, from which we made some really exciting pieces and details, which formed my first collection. I worked with a basket weaver, shoemaker, copper artist, hand knitters, sourced local wool and Welsh made textiles, which was a really exciting process for both I and the artisans involved.
Welsh arts and crafts will always be my main source of inspiration and is a really key part of my brand identity, but each season I will aim to build these ideas into a new and exciting collection mixed with a contemporary, fun concept to keep it current and modern.
KALTBLUT: What drew you to design menswear?
SARAH: I think when I first started studying fashion design, menswear came naturally as I am much more interested in fabrication, details and garment construction, which comes hand in hand with menswear.
KALTBLUT: Tell us about your journey that led you to this point.
SARAH: I grew up in a small rural village in North Wales called Bwlchgwyn, which is just outside of Wrexham. Home is the complete polar opposite of living in London, the countryside is beautiful and it’s so quiet, my Dad still doesn’t have the Internet at home yet which some people find hard to believe! I first moved from home to study my BA in Fashion Design at the University of Leeds. During the course I took a year out in industry which took me to New York and Berlin where I had some really great studio based internships. I met and worked with some amazing people and lived in two of the most exciting cities, it was a real eye opener. I went back to finish my degree in Leeds and after that I moved down to Peckham, London. It was never really a plan of mine to continue straight on to a Masters but I was lucky to be given the opportunity so I took it, and I’m so glad I did. I studied my MA at Kingston University and graduated in September last year. Since then I have been working to build my brand, I showcased my graduate collection at LC:M AW15 which was a great start and am not working towards the next!
KALTBLUT: What were the highs and lows of 2014?
SARAH: I think you could say there was a lot of highs and lows whilst doing my Masters alone! It was tough but really rewarding and worth all of the stress in the end.
KALTBLUT: What does 2015 hold for Sarah Hellen?
SARAH: Well London Collections is fast approaching and I will be showing my first collection after my graduate one last season, I’m really excited that I am being supported by the British Fashion Council as their ‘One to Watch’ which is a great opportunity that I’m really grateful for. Ill be showing a short film based on my collection concept, ‘The Dull Mens Club’ as well as exhibiting my collection within the Emerging Designers Showroom, all very exciting!
KALTBLUT: What do you do to let your hair down?
SARAH: This is a tough one, as it happens only rarely. Probably best to ask me this after fashion week.
KALTBLUT: What item of clothing could you not live without and why?
SARAH: My absolute favourite thing I’ve bought is a coat I found in Leeds Market years ago, its from BHS and was a tenner!
KALTBLUT: Whats the best thing about being being you?
SARAH: Right now I am doing what I enjoy and I’m learning so much, I love working with and discovering craftspeople, travelling across Wales, sourcing materials, learning how things are made, and that is really what I love most about developing my brand. I have so much more to learn and have a very long way to go and I am really grateful to have the support of the British Fashion Council so I just hope my SS16 collection steps up to the mark!
I have an amazing group of friends that have helped me in various ways, through collaborations across different mediums so getting to work together is another great part of what I do. Especially when it comes to photo shoots and filming, working in a team of talented people is when it gets really exciting, and having events like LCM to showcase all the hard work you all put in together, makes all the effort feel worthwhile.
KALTBLUT: What was the last music track you listened too?
SARAH: Well, since I don’t have the Internet in my studio yet my music choices have been pretty questionable recently as I’m relying pretty much on KISS FM, which is slowly driving me insane. But – if you were to ask me this question another time it would probably be something by Carole King, I love her, she’s always on in our house.