by Lisa Stasiulewicz
In a society filled with fake plastic trees—and fake plastic people—the wonders of the natural world take on a whole new allure. One can go for days in the concrete jungle without ever seeing grass or a flower springing from the earth, but designer Helena Fredriksson is using her talents to make nature more a part of everyday life.
Helena's profound appreciation of the world around her can be traced back to her childhood, growing up in Sweden. Though she was raised in Goeteberg, the country's second-largest city, bucolic delights were still close at hand. "There, the sea and the open spaces are so close," she recalls. "My mom called today and told me she had just gone picking mushrooms."
Helena, who still speaks with the whisper of an accent, moved to New York almost a decade ago at age 19 to study painting and sculpture at the Art Students League, the training ground for such luminaries as Jackson Pollack. She settled in Brooklyn where she found the raw, creative culture and the feeling of community comforting. Having made clothes as a hobby since she was a girl, Helena started selling some of her pieces to neighborhood stores while working as a manager of the Camper shoe store in SoHo, a job she was happy to leave two years ago when her business took off.
While she does much of the production on her own, the gregarious designer enjoys working with other artists, as well. "It can be a little lonely being a designer, always making all the decisions. Yes! No! Yes!" she says. "Sometimes it's nice to have someone else to exchange ideas with." Most notably, she is working with Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters, who has worn H Fredriksson in videos and will wear the label on the band's next tour. Helena also has an inner circle with whom she often collaborates, including poet T. Rachel Cole, music producer (and husband) Mike Skinner, as well as the video artists English Kills and photographer Nina Anderssen.
Helena's connection to the idyllic landscape of her childhood appears both overtly and implicitly in her work. Known for her silkscreen prints, Helena creates her designs by translating the silhouettes of branches, flowers, and leaves from her own photographs. The results are modern yet organic, yielding pleasingly abstract images, which she then handprints sparingly onto cotton t-shirts, and silk and linen skirts (she only works in natural fabrics).
Favoring the natural hourglass shape of a woman, Helena freely plays with proportions. "I don't like the shape to be too solid," she says. To accomplish this, she moves her focal points along the midsection, from an empire waist on a cropped jacket to a drop waist on a flapper-like frock. For spring, be sure to check out her cotton shorts, which are cut longer in the back—pure genius—and the limited-edition flowered bolero vest cut from vintage fabric. The "wing dress," has become a collection staple, and it's spring incarnation—with a periwinkle twig print and sash has just the right mix of classic sensibility with a grounded, modern twist.
By embracing what she loves—and what she misses—Helena has found success and a loyal following from all over the world. All proof that a tree can still grow in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn-based designer Helena Fredriksson is inspired by the things that surround her, whether its artists like the Scissor Sisters and Nina Anderssen or nature itself.