New talent Emilie Helmstedt: “I’ll do it my way”

By Sofie Ringtved Jensen

New talent Emilie Helmstedt: “I’ll do it my way”

The Danish design talent Emilie Helmstedt makes her debut today on the official show calendar of Copenhagen Fashion Week. We talked to her about preferring a presentation to a traditional show, taking a stand (until taking a new one), and insisting on building her company at her own pace.

“I have never dreamed of creating a classic fashion show, which I associate with something very glamorous. I have great respect for those who choose that path, but I don’t feel that my own creative visions and designs feel at home in the usual show format. That’s why I’ve chosen to do a presentation instead. That context suits my identity better.”

So says 25-year-old Emilie Helmstedt, whose jib is cut differently than many other newly hatched designers. Whereas most of them would give an arm and a leg to show their collections on a runway just a few seasons into their careers, she has until now said no thank you, the times the opportunity has arisen. But this time around, she has changed her mind — at least partially. The new show formats of Copenhagen Fashion Week have given designers like her the possibility to be part of the official schedule without adhering to the traditional characteristics of a show. This has proven attractive to several of the season’s brands. Both Mykke Hofmann and Rodebjerg have chosen to ditch shows in favour of presentations for this week’s encounter with industry, press, and buyers. To Emilie Helmstedt, the choice comes down to a desire to demonstrate that you can show your work in a visually appealing way without it being in a traditional format.

“With a presentation I can make the event a bit smaller and more intimate. It’s important to me that you can see the details of the clothing, for example that my prints are hand-painted. That’s something I’m passionate about, and something I want to display”, says Helmsted on her presentation, which takes place at the Opera at Freetown Christiania.


Nearly cold feet

Helmstedt, who previously has been trained as a tailor and is currently taking an undergraduate degree at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design, is still a new face on the Danish fashion scene. To those who already know her, what comes to mind is probably her ruffled loungewear and colourful silk prints, which last year made waves in the fashion media above them all: Instagram. Her talent was quickly recognized by the owner of Holly Golightly, Barbara Maj Husted Werner, who has sold her first mini-collection consisting of five difference designs in her store on Gammel Mønt in central Copenhagen. Today, her collection is four times that size, with 20 styles, developed into a full range of long dresses, shorts, trousers, and shirts.

“I have been in touch with Copenhagen Fashion Week for the last two seasons. But it’s only now that I think my brand and collection have the kind of size where showing them at fashion week makes sense,” she says, noting that it’s not just her collection that has grown, but also demand for it.

“The last half year has gone really well. It has been a great experience to have my creations for sale at Holly Golightly — and it has also meant inquiries from new buyers. I think it’s important to act on that. I think everyone in this industry needs to take action to reach more people, beyond their usual framework. Giving this presentation is a natural reaction to the expansion of the brand. Anything else would be strange,” Emilie Helmsted continues. She has recognized that in order to expand reach, you can’t remain undercover — to grow the brand, she has needed to adopt some of the methods she hadn’t originally intended to. Despite the kind of idealist approach to design that she embodies.

“When I made the design I kind of broke down. A lot of people reached out to wish me luck and make suggestions as to how it should be arranged. I could sense that people had some very specific ideas about what being part of the show schedule meant. But to me it means a lot that I can do it my way. I’m not interested in making my brand too commercial. I need myself to remain a part of it,” she says, explaining that the choice of Freetown Christiania as location — where she lives and has her workshop — was connected to this. That way it could all be held in personal environs — inviting the audience into her own world, rather than shape the brand into someone else’s.

“I hope that this whole setup will reflect my creative universe, both in terms of design, but also in terms of my values as a designer. Both the scenography and sound design, for example, have been put together by my friends at the Art Academy. They know me and come from the same creative milieu as me,” she says.

Taking the next step

Debuting at Copenhagen Fashion Week is, in other words, is entering a new frontier. But it’s also doubtless a step that can grant some benefits business-wise for such a young designer to be part of the official calendar. Besides giving her the opportunity to show the collection she has spent half a year creating, a stamp of approval from the biggest fashion week in the Nordic region can also help expand her international reach.

“I would also really like to sell my collections abroad. I would, for example, like to head ot Asia, which I think is a very interesting market, and where I see a lot of potential for my products”, says Helmsted, who has invited several Asian buyers to today’s presentation.

“I know what I want and what I don’t want. I would like to build my brand slowly over the next few years, expanding with a few more employees. I also dream of creating more artistic projects, for example using my prints for something else than clothing, or work with other kinds of materials, like ceramics. But I don’t want to compromise my vision in such pursuits. So I’m taking one day at a time and trying to enjoy the journey. It’s important to me that I listen to my gut, and follow it. So let’s see what happens,” she ends.

Emilie Helmstedt’s presentation takes place today, August 7, at Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen.