lumelsky gets light
With strong silhouettes and considered detailing, Antwerp-based, Crimean-born designer Helena Lumelsky creates masculine yet decidedly elegant womenswear. Winning a slew of awards throughout her degree at the prestigious Antwerp Academy, it is little surprise the young designer's eponymous label is highly regarded throughout the industry.
After graduating in 2006, Lumelsky started the label Stereotypes with fellow Antwerp Academy grad Demna Gvasalia, and in 2007 presented at Japan Fashion Week. A few years down the track, Lumelsky's background in menswear has helped to define the distinct aesthetic of her women's label.
Known for her penchant for black, Lumelsky's AW10 collection, which was inspired by the dark side of human nature, saw her invited to take part in Antwerp's Mode Museum's (MoMu) BLACK: Masters of Black in Fashion & Costume exhibition.
Now, a finalist in the coveted Mango Fashion Award, with a line for the giant retailer and a ?300,000 prize on offer, Lumelsky is a name you're sure to hear a lot more of. The talented designer talks with Jean Kemshal-Bell about her latest, brighter collection, Edith Piaf and her love of shadow puppets.
Oyster: How did you find your time at the Antwerp Academy?
Helena: It was great time for me. I met my best friends there.
Oyster: Tell me about growing up in Sevastopol, Crimea.
Helena: I haven't been there for 15 years. I remember only good things: beautiful white buildings; the Black Sea, which had a specific colour and smell; the mountains I used to climb; and white cherries.
Oyster: When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
Helena: I think I always paid attention to clothes. I remember from my early childhood the dresses my mum used to wear. By the age of 16 I was already drawing and stitching for myself.
Oyster: How would you describe your aesthetic?
Helena: I love the small details that make a design. Construction and pattern are always a starting point for me. My designs are body conscious because I work mainly on a doll/human body. Fashion for me is more about reflecting aesthetic than intellectual beauty.
Oyster: Congratulations on being selected as a finalist for the Mango Fashion Award 2010. Can you give us some insight into the collection you're designing for them?
Helena: I was interested in transparency; how the transparent fabric reveals the body and how the transparency affects colour combinations. The collection itself is a mix-and-match wardrobe of simple pieces, which can be combined in different ways, accompanied by some more complicated pieces, like transparent knitwear. I wanted to create a fragile and romantic image for summer. The collection starts with a morning negligee and ends with a cocktail dress with froufrous, creating an entire see-through wardrobe for SS11.
Oyster: Do you think your background in menswear has influenced your approach to womenswear?
Helena: I like when women dress in menswear clothes or in clothes influenced by menswear, I find this very attractive. I believe in this mixture of powerful, masculine and feminine. I've been able to transfer my menswear tailoring techniques to my designs for women.
Oyster: You are known for your use of black, and have said ?black is not really a colour, but an enhancer of the silhouette.' Can you tell me what you mean by this?
Helana: Black clothes always give you a super-strong silhouette and I love the way it conceals things or makes them more dramatic. The darkness means that some of the details can be harder to see, too, and the colour sort of absorbs everything. Edith Piaf performed in a black sheath dress throughout her career. Because of this habit she was nicknamed ?little black sparrow'. It was thought that the dress helped audiences focus more on Piaf's singing and less on her appearance. This is also why I enjoy using black in my designs; in a ?black frame' personality shines more brightly.
Oyster: Can you tell me about your piece that was featured in MoMu's BLACK exhibition?
Helena: The dress was taken from my AW10 collection that was inspired by the dark side of human nature and the film noir aesthetic. There are always these scenes in film noir with heavy, black shadows of different body parts and sometimes the only thing you see is the shadow, not the actual person.
Oyster: How did your shadow puppet book, The Black Theatre, come about?
Helena: I was asked to participate in an artistic project surrounding the BLACK exhibition at MoMu. I thought about who my ?Masters of Black' were and which ?black' designers carry a special meaning for me. I had a vision from my childhood: I remembered sitting under my bed at night with a flashlight, playing with dolls. So I added the flashlight to The Black Theatre. When I was young, I had an encyclopaedia about the history of fashion. On the cover were typical silhouettes from historical periods such as Rococo and Baroque, with nearly abstract, yet very identifiable silhouettes. These forms inspired me to create the book. It was handmade in Belgium in a limited edition of 200 copies.
Oyster: What was the concept behind your latest collection?
Helena: It's called LIGHT. Hitchcock's film Vertigo was the starting point for the collection. I was trying to translate the idea of split personalities into the garments, fusing the silhouettes and components of traditional pieces into new forms. I used varying fabrics in a unified colour to create harmony and an abstract unease, echoing the vague, dream-like state of the film. The LIGHT collection has a faded colour palette of soft shades that take inspiration from the effect of harsh sunlight on fabrics, draining them of their former glories.
Oyster: Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
Oyster: What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on the Mango collection for SS11.
Oyster: Plans for the future?