Take just one look at a piece from the Copenhagen-based brand Helmstedt and you’ll instantly be transported to a different world—whether it’s a cottagecore picnic in a fantasy land, or the North Pole. The latter location, it turns out, served as inspiration for designer Emilie Helmstedt’s fall 2021 collection, which she showed this past March; The northernmost part of the globe led her to make a twee collection of clothing bearing penguin patches and silky, abstract swirls resembling ice, snow, and the northern lights. Although you may not have heard of her just yet, Emilie Helmstedt’s fanciful work has been worn by Bella Hadid, Brie Larson, and Kendall Jenner—and her art-forward brand is making waves within the fashion industry.
Part of the whimsy Helmstedt fans have come to know has a lot to do with its prints and vivid colors. Emilie Helmstedt hand-paints prints for her own fabrics: images of clouds, bumble bees, fruits, and animals often float across her puffy silk jackets, pajama-style separates, and dreamy day dresses. At her buzzy shows during Copenhagen Fashion Week, she also adds an art-show element, whether that’s life-size tea cups and pieces of pie, or outdoor sculptures all made by the designer.
“When I paint, the process unfolds playfully and freely,” Helmstedt tells me of the unique process behind every piece she makes. “I let my mind guide the movements of my hand, and I blend colors intuitively, based on my current emotions and state of mind. Painting is a way of immersing myself into expression without using words—and pausing a world that otherwise runs fast.”
Sure, there are plenty of brands that take a novel approach to prints. But part of what also makes a Helmstedt piece unique is the silhouette—Helmstedt’s garments are easy, free-flowing, and loose. Take, for example, the silk quilted coats that are almost boxy in shape, but intrinsically flattering. Or any number of dresses, with puffed sleeves and flowing skirts, and, more often than not, floor-length skirts. One of the designer’s favorite pieces she ever created is the Glaze set: an upscale take on sweats that comes in the form of knitted pants and a top with an icy, wavy pink print that is both abstract ‘70s and unexpectedly feminine in its approach. “It’s kept me warm during winter,” she says. “The collection was made in honor of my loved ones and how they make me feel.”
Helmstedt’s roots run in the world of craft. She grew up in a creative family, with a stepfather who was a painter and a grandmother who was a tapestry and stone masonry artist. “Expressing yourself by using your hands runs in my family,” she says. “During my childhood school years, I was quite a loner, and still am, since I loved spending time in my own company, letting my imagination run wild.”
As a child, she grew up in the autonomous “freetown” of Christiania, Copenhagen. “Christiania can feel like it’s a million miles away from the rest of the world,” she adds. “There are no rules, houses are imaginative and have bizarre shapes, and residents are free-spirited. Art and expression is everywhere—in tiny details, beautiful street drawings, and crooked lines.” She credits this upbringing as being one of her biggest inspirations. Growing up, she fell ill for a few years and delved into painting and sewing, continuing to express herself through these methods until she eventually founded the brand Helmstedt in 2018.
Fast-forward to today, when Helmstedt just showed its most recent collection for fall 2021. From the start, she’s been inspired by nature and continued to weave those motifs into her work (e.g., the North Pole). The designer is constantly looking forward to the next big thing, while also taking time to slow down. She is currently pregnant, and expecting her first child soon—as a result, she’s been spending time in a quiet countryside landscape north of Copenhagen.
“My ambition for the next couple of years is to keep expanding the Helmstedt brand and universe,” she says. “I dream of creating spectacular fashion shows, unique shopping experiences around the world, pop-ups and events that engage consumers in the process of creation, sculptures moving around adult playgrounds, a ‘funhouse’ in Paris with walls and ceilings of colored mirrors where you can buy fun gadgets, exclusive design pieces—and a cup of coffee.”