We meet fashion designer Helga Lilja Magnúsdóttir in her co-operated store 20BÉ on Laugavegur 20b which is soon to be closed down. Helga is going through changes these days, changing store location and studio. With six years of experience of the clothing design business she is looking brightly to the future and is far from running out of ideas and inspirations.
Have you been doing this for a long time?
I started studying in the Iceland Academy of the Arts when I was 20 years old, graduated in 2006 when I was 23 years old. I went straight from there into making clothes, I begun when getting this heat press machine that you use to print on hoodies, very much street, trying to go as far as I could from what I was doing at the Academy. I sold my hoodies at the shop The Naked Ape where I had a successful run and from there I went to work for the clothing company Nikita. Heiða (founder of Nikita) bought a vest I made and from that they offered me a job which was great. I stayed there for almost three years and by that time I was craving to create myself, so in December 2010 I started designing under the Helicopter name and style.
So there is a change in style from the hoodies to your new style?
Yes there is, although I still see it as street, it’s everyday wear, more fancy, more digital print and different fabrics than I used at first but I keep within the lines of it being casual and a very important thing as well; something you feel comfortable wearing. I design clothes that I want to wear and I want to wear things that are practical and look nice at the same time.
20BÉ is closing down, what comes next?
We are closing down here which means we have a lot of clothes on sale but Helicopter recently became a part of the collaborative shop Kiosk on Laugavegur 65 and I also started selling in Karrusel in Copenhagen, Duty Free in the airport, Birna on Skólavörðustígur and even one shop in Eskifjörður called LV. The autumn/winter 2012-13 line is in production now and will be available in stores in the beginning of September and there will be an opening party in Kiosk. I like working in a shop where my clothes are sold, being around my customers and learn from the experience and find out what I can do better, I wouldn’t want to be completely separated from them. (At this point the photographer Nanna has picked out a gorgeous dress from the sale.)
Any new inspirations these days?
Yes and no, it’s always developing and you will see some changes next summer but I am still being kind of true to myself and my style. Designing next summer started quite late for me, it didn’t really happen until I went away to LungA artfestival in the east of Iceland. As cliché as it sounds it was just so inspiring to go away from the city and into the Icelandic nature. I’ve had different inspirations for example I found a cushion at my grandmother’s house from which I made the pattern for my summer 12 collection and for the coming winter the pattern I made is inspired by Wilson’s Bird of Paradise with strong colours and feathers which is entirely different from what I have now. For next summer I’m turning again in another direction. I usually just do the exact thing I want to do in the present moment. And even though I am looking at books and pictures that I’m really inspired from, for example the Native American tribal material, I might end up with something totally different. It’s like I get inspired from it to work and create. I get very inspired by my family and childhood, especially my old toys.
Any wisdom to share from these past six years?
What I am learning and discovering now is that you don’t want to go too fast. In the beginning I sewed the clothes myself and let people try them on and seeing them liking them so much I decided to give it a go, manufacturing that is. What I am trying to say is I don’t think it would be prosperous to overgrow to fast and explode all of a sudden. I would love to do loads of things that I have in my head but I know it would be too much to soon. Most of my time doesn’t go into the actual designing, when you are working alone on your own things a lot of the time you are handling practical things that come with the territory and working in the store takes up your time as well. But at the moment I have no interest in doing anything else because it gives me everything I want in life.
Interview: Erla Steinþórsdóttir
Photograph: Nanna Dís