Helena Fredriksson is the designer/creative director of H Fredriksson, a Brooklyn-based contemporary womenswear brand known for her exquisite, prints and elegant, feminine shapes. I've had the pleasure of working with Helena for more than a decade. Recently, I stopped by her studio to get a glimpse of her creative process. Below is an excerpt from our conversation.
Your collection has major NYC roots — you live and work in Brooklyn, in Williamsburg, and your line is produced in NYC’s Garment District. Why is it important to you to keep production close to home?
I like to work local and support the tailors and craftsmanship that still exists in NYC. The history of the garment district is unique and I love that there is still garment making here. Being able to see and discuss the whole process of creating a garment with my tailors is a great way to work for me.
What are some of the perks/pain points of producing in NYC?
The perks is that I have more control over quality as well as flexibility in quantities, timelines and logistics. The pain is that it is very expensive.
One of the hallmarks of your brand are your proprietary prints, which are often developed from your artwork and photography. How does this process work? Are there any specific components of a piece of your art work or a photograph that make a good print?
I think the patterns have become a way of seeing for me at this point. I look at my surroundings and find textures and patterns in almost everything - sometimes it's interesting to explore further to understand if it can become a print, and sometimes the visual moment in time is enough of an impression for me... The images I capture can be as different as a construction wall covered in ripped up posters or a plant in a botanical garden. I search and shoot a lot while traveling and exploring new surroundings. I then rework the imagery into prints once back in my Brooklyn studio. There are H Fredriksson fabric prints originating from as diverse places as Hawaii, Sweden, Japan, Guatemala, Sri Lanka and Morocco, for instance.
Your collections tend to eschew contemporary trends, but still manage to look modern and timeless. How would you describe the H Fredriksson aesthetic?
The H Fredriksson aesthetic comes from a place where creativity meets classic, distinctive form. The goal is to create designs that are interesting, wearable and seductive while staying timeless, ageless and that can withstand the fluidity of fast changing trends. The H Fredriksson aesthetic is rooted in a balance of opposites - nature vs urban - clean vs complex - classic vs modern. The beauty of juxtapositions.
Where do you draw inspiration for your collection?
I draw inspiration for H Fredriksson from art in all forms. There is a connection for me in seeing work: performances and creative endeavors where I feel the vision and eye aligns to the way I see the world. Since my background is in painting, printmaking and photography, I am very drawn to those mediums for inspiration, but I also have a big love for film, live performance and music... New York is such a great place to explore the most brilliants and diverse selections of all things creative.
Another big inspiration for me is nature: the beautiful ways nature create patterns, shapes and colors in all things alive is a true fascination for me, and a big part of my love and need to travel is to see the creative ways both nature and people exists in so many variations in the world.
What most inspires you about living in NYC? Is there any place that you can’t live without?
The diversity and the energy of NYC is what I fell in love with when I first came here, and it is still what I love the most. There is a freedom in that there is so much of everything and everyone. I think the fact that people come to NYC from all corners of the world to pursue their dreams creates an energy that is hard to match.
I could never live without my home country Sweden. Especially our family summer house that my dad and his brother built from scratch in the late 60's early 70's, that's my home in nature that I often go to in my mind and every summer for real.
You grew up in Sweden and you still spend summers there with your family. Hows do your Swedish roots influence your design?
The aesthetics of Scandinavian design is deeply rooted in me, the beauty of simplicity, innovation and clean lines speaks my design language.
I know that my Swedish roots are a huge part of me both as a person and a designer. The connection to nature comes from my Swedish upbringing, and I am sure that the H Fredriksson color palate of golden yellows, rusts, blues, greens and neutrals has it's roots in the Swedish soil.
What’s your design philosphy?
The H Fredriksson design philosophy is rooted in my love for craft, women and nature. To make long lasting high quality clothing, made ethical and with care. To make women feel unique and empowered in the garment while allowing the body to feel free.
H Fredriksson is designed for real women with true opinions, creative ideas, and an eye for the unique.
Photography: Jason Roth Photography
Creative Director: Keif Matera