It’s been about a year since the unveiling of Helicopter’s colourful Mandatory Luck collection. The collection consisted of loose fitting garments featuring the deconstructed pattern of the Mandarin duck and was consistant with the label’s previous abstract interpretation of elements from nature.
This year Helicopter is changing directions and straying a bit from its usual path with its new SS15 collection, Come Flight With Me. The collection takes spring and summer collections out of their bright and colourful box as designer Helga Lilja Magnúsdóttir, owner of Helicopter, focuses on functionality and versatility influenced by her own personal style.
After graduating from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts in 2006, Helga – who had sewn her own clothes since college – came into possession of a heating press and shortly thereafter Helicopter was born. Launched in 2010, the label has been a prominent figure in the Icelandic fashion design scene and is one of a lucky few that has successfully ventured out on to the international market.
I had a chat with Helga, who recently moved to Berlin, about Helicopter and the upcoming collection.
When did you start designing?
Already in college I started making my own clothes. I was especially good at starting to make something and having my mother finish the garment to be actually wearable.
But I cannot say I started designing, in the whole sense of the word, until I went to the Icelandic Academy of the Arts. Making stuff and designing stuff can be two completely different things.
How did Helicopter come to be?
A heating press, for silk screen printing, literally fell into my lap when I had just graduated fashion. These things normally cost a fortune and I took this fluke luck as a sign to start screen printing and producing for my very own label.
This first batch of Helicopter got the attention of Heiða, former owner of streetwear company Nikita, and she offered me a job. Which of course I took, and learned all I needed to let my dream come true – to start Helicopter properly as a functional clothing company.
What is the essence of Helicopter?
Comfort and the feeling that you have your own sense of style. Not everyone else’s style.
For me it is really important that what I wear makes me feel as good as possible. If the garment does not fit properly or is too tight you cannot shine for what you are. I do not want to put on a costume, I want to wear clothes.
Helicopter is a high-street fashion label, is it important that the garments are versatile, that is, equally suitable as casual and evening wear?
I have garments in my closet that I absolutely love and adore but are too fancy ever to wear. Those garments end up being the saddest ones I own, for I can never wear them. I love it when you can wear a garment into pieces in any kind of situation until you simply ruin it or start hating it from over-use.
Is the same principle implemented in the new SS15 collection?
Yes, my newest collection might actually be the one that is most thought of in this way. It has everything to do with what kind of shoes and pants/stockings you put on, I am really proud of this collection.
A recent collection of yours was inspired by the Mandarin Duck, tell us what inspired the new collection?
The same blessed bird! The last collection I released was a really colourful collection with a statement print, if there ever was one. The thing that then happened was that I was not finished with the bird and needed to take a completely different direction with it as well. So I decided to take up a pen and a piece of paper and draw what I saw.
The thing is that I could keep on and on and on with this bird but enough is enough, no?
What is the main difference between this collection and the previous ones?
This collection is black and white.
How has Helicopter evolved since the beginning?
The collection has evolved from only dresses and tops into a fully fledged collection, coats to stockings, silk dresses to cotton shirts, the whole works. The collections are more concentrated and conceptual than they were, in all honesty I have much more fun designing it now than I did in the beginning.
What are the most important things you have learned and/or changed throughout?
I have learned to be more selfish when I design. I started the collection because I am lactose intolerant. I am a practicing lactose intolerant now… I was not then. I could only wear really loose garments and that is what I designed. Now that I watch my diet the collection changes into what I can wear.
Can you tell us a little about the designing and production process?
Well, the designing process is always a bit different for me from collection to collection. The SS15 changed four times in a month and somehow I did not draw a single thing and still got a whole collection ready. It was really weird.
The production process is always the same discussions between me and my manufacturer in Latvia about fabrics arriving way to late and in wrong sizes. Then more discussions until something is figured out and I receive a sample. Production is way more compromise than I ever would have imagined.
What gets the inspiration flowing?
The other day I went to the aquarium here in Berlin, where I live, and my head was brimming over with ideas. A week later I went to see the philharmonic and the floor there had me literally crawling on all fours in a fancy dress!
What is the most enjoyable part of the process?
When an idea has been in my head for a long time and it comes to me in a garment. Meeting the garment of my imagination is really rewarding, and the moment you see someone put it on and love what they see in the mirror.
Making something that makes someone feel good is an unbelievable feeling.
What are some of the most important things to consider when designing and producing a collection?
It is important to think both practically and out of the box. You have to take some chances to have fun but also try and keep yourself on the ground. Timeframe is also very important.
Helicopter is available in the UK, US, Germany and Japan as well as Iceland. What is it like for an Icelandic designer on the international market?
I have never thought about that that way. The international market came to me. The newest store is located in Rome so now we have Italy as well!
How does Nordic design rank on the global market in your opinion?
We are fetching weather, like we say in Iceland. I think we have a really good possibility to grow, but to do so we might have to use our strength as island dwellers and, since I can only speak for Icelandic designers, I think we are really doing that.
Designers in Iceland really stick together and it is what might be our strength in the long run. I look forward to the future to see what is going to happen.
Name one ideal person you would like to see wearing Helicopters designs?
My grandmother, Jórunn Viðar. She is the most amazing woman in the whole wide world.
And finally, what is next for Helicopter?
We are changing our name and logo! What do you think about HCPTR by Helicopter?
Photos by Íris Dögg Einarsdóttir
Model: Ísabella Klara @ Eskimo Models
The first batch of the collection is already available and the rest will be available Friday June 12th. I personally have my eye on the white oversized T-shirt and black jeans!
For more information follow Helicopter on Facebook and to shop the collection visit www.hcptr.com
Tags: fashion designer, icelandic, nordic design
Hugrún is an art and design enthusiast from Iceland, with a deep appreciation for aesthetics that deviate from the conventional.
Being born and raised in the Reykjavík region, she draws inspiration from the city’s quirky small-town culture, and the diversity and individuality of its inhabitants.
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