Tweed may be an unlikely material of choice, but for Hellen Van Rees it represents a wonderland of innovation – and success. One season on from her Central Saint Martins graduate show, the designer last week triumphed in the hyped Vauxhall Fashion Scout Ones To Watch runway with a fresh collection that took tweed on a very modern journey. A cityscape of 3D cubes sprung from 1920s dress silhouettes, fusing the avant-garde with the classic. Dazed Digital spoke to Van Rees about tweed and how she manages to turn simple forms into sculptural feats of design.
I developed a weaving technique inspired by tweeds that allowed me to weave in the shape of the garment seamlessly. I wanted to use this to do something avant-garde with 3D cubes
Dazed Digital: How did you get into fashion design?
Hellen Van Rees: As a child I was often making all sorts of things, generally being fascinated by materials. As I got older I started drawing humans and eventually got into fashion because of the diversity of it. It’s very creative, getting to work with materials in both 2D and 3D. It’s also quite technical which I like.
Dazed Digital: Where do you live and work?
Hellen Van Rees: I moved out of London after finishing the MA at Central Saint Martins and am in the Netherlands now, though I visit London regularly. Because where I live now is quite remote and nobody does anything fashion related it has allowed me to really focus on my work.
Dazed Digital: Why tweed?
Hellen Van Rees: I like that it is made of so many different types of yarns: different colours and textures that make the fabric look really rich. It’s also a fabric that’s usually associated with very traditional garments so there’s space for reinterpretation.
DD: Why did you choose such a traditional silhouette as the core of your collection?
Hellen Van Rees: Tweed was the starting point. I developed a weaving technique inspired by tweeds that allowed me to weave in the shape of the garment seamlessly. I wanted to use this to do something avant-garde with 3D cubes. It still had to be logical with a basic and elegant garment shape. For me the 1920’s silhouette is exactly that.
DD: What do you like about structure?
Hellen Van Rees: I like the fusion of the traditional with the very modern and futuristic. I also like to explore the limits of the materials I use which leads to more sculptural pieces at times.
DD: You get a lot of references to Coco Chanel’s work – does this bear merit?
Hellen Van Rees: Yes, it’s the main inspiration for the textile and the way I ‘build’ my outfits. The cubes in the collection reference installations of massive 3D blocks by artists Rachel Whitebread and Anish Kapoor. By looking at these I got the idea to do a ‘3D version of Chanel’. Obviously it’s quite a crazy twist on the classic Chanel!