Top fashion designer Helen Steele has opened up about being “mind blown” at dressing some of our biggest stars on the red carpet.
Helen’s main fashion line has been worn by everyone from Saoirse Ronan at the Brooklyn premiere in 2015, to Laura Whitmore, Louise McSharry, Cara Delevingne, Vogue Williams, Louise O’Neill, Amy Huberman, Rachel Allen and Rita Ora.
But she revealed that singer Loah is the latest star she got to dress when she wore one of her designs at the Oscar Wilde Awards – something she says was “mind blown”.
She told us: “The closest I ever came was dressing Saoirse Ronan for the premiere of Brooklyn here and for some of her press tour of Brooklyn as well.
“Then the closest this year I got was dressing Loah for the Oscar Wilde awards last week. She was performing at it. I made the jacket out of recycled bottles.
“That was mind blowing. I was totally over the moon, and she is so amazing like everything she stands for, her music, she is so creative, that kind of opportunity doesn’t come around a lot. But when it does you grab it.”
The mother-of-three opened up about working with Saoirse Ronan – saying meeting the Carlow superstar and her mother Monica was “amazing”.
“On that occasion it was facilitated by her stylist Grace Moore. I got to meet her and her mum and they’re both lovely, they’re amazing. We designed a dress together for the Brooklyn premiere so that was pretty amazing,” she said.
She said she would love to dress a pregnant Rihanna or Tilda Swindon.
“I would love to dress Rihanna at the moment. She’s amazing. I think she has completely changed the way we look upon women when they’re pregnant. She has completely embraced it. I think 80 percent of what she wears is really cool on her.”
It has been a tough but busy two years for Helen through various lockdowns – and the designer said she didn’t make a single banana bread as the country was brought to a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Lockdown was awful. I don’t know anyone who said… there was no banana bread baking or anything like that because I was so incredibly busy. I was trying to be as calm headed for my kids as I could. We actually moved house in the middle of it, which was interesting.
“In between the first lockdown, we moved house and my daughter finished the Leaving Cert and went to college but from the point of view of lockdown as a whole, it flew because I was so busy with work.”
She opened up about the fashion industry becoming more eco-friendly – but said it comes with its own challenges.
“I started a long time ago trying to create more recycled fabrics and there is genuine trial and error with eco fabrics. That is the reality that a lot of people don’t talk about. Some shrink, some aren’t as nice as your silks.
“But in reality, we don’t really have a choice. It’s a lot of researching trial and error into what fabrics really work from an eco-point of view and right now, 50 per cent of my own main line collection is made from recycled fabrics.”
But she said the fashion industry has become more “democratic”.
“The wonderful thing about fashion and the market especially in the last ten years, it has gone through major upheaval. And because of social media -thank God – like most fashion designers would, back in the day, to get into boutiques internationally, you would’ve had to go through the wholesale route, whereas that is not the case anymore. You can just have your own website or sell on Instagram, and you can run your ads on it as well.
“So I think it is a much more democratic fashion industry and because of that, you can choose whether or not you have 20 collections a year or one.
“With my main line I do one collection a year. We don’t live in Norway, we certainly don’t live in the tropics and I feel I’ve really got to know my customers.
“That is the other great thing about online as well is you can reach your customers directly. It’s been more of a direct process, which is beneficial.”
Helen was speaking as part of the launch of the Jack and Jill Foundation anonymous online art sale. Helen is one of the 1,200 artists taking part in this year’s Incognito art sale in aid of the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation, which celebrates 25 years in 2022.
The biggest online art sale in Ireland, what makes Incognito unique is that the artist’s identity remains a mystery until the sale closes.
Each artwork costs €65, with all funds raised going to support Jack and Jill’s in-home specialist nursing care, respite support and end-of-life care for children with highly complex and life-limiting medical conditions, up to the age of six.
“Art has always been part of my life. It’s everything to me. I need to paint or do something creative every day and, if I don’t, I feel lost. My work is mood-driven and, as my art always starts with colour, it’s like colour therapy for me.
“As for Incognito, I think it’s important in a number of ways. Being a mum, having healthy children is the greatest gift in life. That is why I want to do everything that I can to support Jack and Jill’s work with other families who may be facing more challenging circumstances. Incognito is also a way for people who might never buy art to purchase something affordable that they can appreciate. Ultimately, it offers the buyer a little piece of art treasure. A little piece of joy.”
The Incognito 2022 collection of over 3,200 original artworks goes live on www.incognito.ie on 31 March 2022, and the sale gets underway on Thursday, 21 April 2022. To register, visit www.incognito.ie
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