Isabel Helf’s work will fulfill anyone’s expectations of practical and artistic work. They’re practical because they’re designed to be compact and save space and so everything has its own place and they’re artistic, designed to be with you for the rest of your life, as your own special keepsake.
Isabel is interested in human disorders and she chose order as the theme for her pieces as a kind of therapy for herself and for those who live by the motto, everything in its place.
Originally a student of womenswear design in Vienna, she says that after finishing her Master’s in Fashion Artefacts at the London College of Fashion, she knows that she wants to continue working on products and objets that occupy that fine line between furniture and fashion design.
At So Catchy! Where Fashion Begins, we’ve fallen in love with her beautiful creations; the execution, and the concept that sustains them, are impeccable. They are Portable Compulsion.
SO CATCHY!: What does your “portable compulsion” come from?
ISABEL HELF: My final collection portable compulsion deals with the relationship between a space saving attitude of shrinking places nowadays and the possible cause of a kind of compulsive orderliness, where an inner urge creates a balance between the objects within the surrounding area.
Depending on the degree and form of the illness, affected people are following certain behavioural patterns. My interest was particularly aimed at the form of these patterns, their cause and subsequently the best way to counteract and decrease through design, look and appearance.
By relating every object to a storage place where it fits perfectly and creating a conserving function aspect at the same time, the balance of order is preserved and both eyes and emotions are pleased. Because of their multifunctional design they stand for today’s ongoing issue of space saving and representing at the same time a certain kind of behavioural therapy through wearing and storing.
SC!: Tell us about the creative process of Portable Compulsion.
IH: Since I started with Fashion Design I have developed a strong interest towards varieties in human characteristics and to translate those into different concepts. During my research last year I believe to have found a certain kind of compulsive orderliness in my own person, which is why this one gained my attention in particular. I started the research about types of disorder and therefore different storage possibilities of friends and other people, which gave me the inspiration for the designs of portable compulsion. Because many storage places were related to furniture, I decided to use wood as one of the main materials of the collection.
Therefore I used American Walnut, Tulip and Wenge, three types of wood that differ in colour, weight and softness and combined them with Cow Hide and Cow/Pig Suede for the lining. All closings and details are made of golden plated brass.
To produce the wooden part of my collection I had the amazing opportunity to work together with a joinery in Austria, who helped me to realize my ideas by providing me with a working bench within their workshop, their tools, machines and their knowledge. Thus I had the chance to expand my professional knowledge.
I used traditional wood working techniques to show craftsmanship such as Dovetails or Finger Joints and combined them with digital manufacturing techniques including CNC Milling Machine or Laser Cutter in order for them to survive for a long time period and to be a sustaining piece of art the customer’s could even pass on for generations.
SC!: Before, you created Displaced Emotion and Construction Site, both womenswear collections.
IH: Displaced Emotion and Construction site are both womenswear collections I made during my bachelor studies. Construction site is a collection that discloses the process of a two-dimensional draft into the three-dimensional construction. It explains through design the garments tale, its process of making and its aims.
Displaced emotion portrays the conflict of the two sides every person has, namely the introvert and the extrovert side that are interacting with each other all the time.
I used silk screen printing for both collections.
SC!: Do you prefer to design fashion (clothes) or accessories?
IH: I definitely prefer designing and producing accessories if not even products or stationaries. I love to work with many different materials and techniques and to combine them. I really like to experiment with everything and using materials I have never used or even heard before. I do have the feeling I can explore this more within accessories or products than within fashion.
SC!: Your designs are quite architectural and asymmetric, how would you describe your work in a few words?
IH: Spacesaving, satisfying, multifunctional
SC!: What´s the most exciting part of what you do?
IH: Experimenting with materials and to learn how to use all those incredible machines.
The most exciting part of my final collection was definitely working with wood. I have never done anything before with wood or used any of these machines and it is an amazing feeling afterwards that your knowledge expanded that much that you feel really comfortable to work with this material.
SC!: Describe the person you would love to wear your pieces.
IH: A person who I would love to wear my pieces appreciates handcrafted items, show attention to details, emphasizes a concept behind a piece and gets this satisfying feeling when two things fit together perfectly.
SC!: The perfect fashion accessory for you is…
IH: An unique piece that carries a story
SC!: You can´t stop wearing….
IH: My clock
SC!: What are you going to do next?
ICH: I will look for a job either in the fields of product, industrial or accessories design and would like to start working on my next collection.
SC!: A book everybody should read…
IH: Perfume by Patrick Suskind
SC!: An online magazine about design you usually check….
SC!: Your favourite fashion designer is…
IH: Hussein Chalayan
SC!: A classmate you truly admire…
IH: That’s quite difficult to answer, because all my classmates are extremely talented and creative. All of them have done something special and unique and I have learned a lot from them. However, Helena Abud is one of my classmates I truly adore. She worked with wood and leather as well and used these two materials in a way I have never seen before. She invented techniques I really admire and I’m inspired by her way of thinking and developing all these structures. Her minimalist but still playful designs are really fascinating.
SC!: Do you plan to sell online?
IH: No, not at the moment, but I will definitely think of it once I have my own label.
All photos by Iringo Demeter
Translation and Layout by Michael Padilla