It’s who I am and what I believe is the way to live, not a calculated decision

Combining soft draping with tailored silhouettes and patterns inspired by her own travel photography, Helena Fredriksson — the designer behind H Fredriksson and a Brooklyn-based Swede since the early 1990s — creates collections that are classic, artistic and ethical.

H Fredriksson’s textiles — silk, silk-like cupro (regenerated cellulose fibre made from cotton) or tencel — are sustainable, production is local, waste is kept to a minimum, and tailors (including Judith and Gustavo, captured here in a photo from Fashion Revolution Day) and suppliers are highly skilled and paid well. But while Helena’s design practice is infused by a sense of environmentalism that has been with her for a long time, she is also something of an accidental sustainability activist. She traces this back to growing up in Sweden in the 1970s and early 1980s, a time in which equality and the environment were high on the agenda. “My sense of the responsibility to live and work along the lines of sustainability most likely started there, even if I wasn’t aware of sustainability as a concept until much later,” Helena says. “It’s funny — since starting the collection I have always produced locally, worked with reclaimed and sustainable fabrics without naming it [as such]. It’s who I am and what I believe is the way to live, not a calculated decision.”

The birth of H Fredriksson took a similar path. “The decision of working as a fashion designer was a very step-by-step process and very organic,” Helena says. “I started making designs and garments as a young teenager, using my mom’s sewing machine and fabric closet.” Much later, Helena created her first collection for a collective runway show during New York Fashion Week, though that was “years before I officially founded the brand,” which celebrated its 10th birthday last year.

Inspired by art and performance, Helena says that she likes “to get a feel that is outside of fashion. Working with styles that flatter different shapes and a multitude of women interests me”. (The fact that Amber Valletta, Alex Wek, the First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray and artist Wangechi Mutu have all been spotted wearing H Fredriksson shows that she manages to do just that.) Having never studied fashion, Helena’s own experiences as an artist — working with photography, painting and printmaking — also informs her designs. “I think my way at looking at shapes, body, volume and prints is rooted in my understanding of space and form in my art studies rather than from a fashion perspective,” she says. “I believe that this is an advantage to stay true to the identity and originality of the brand.”

Helena also uses her artistic skills to infuse her collections with patterns created from photographs that she takes across the world. For spring/summer 2015, Guatemalan ceilings can be spotted in the pattern named ‘Texture’ while ‘Yucca’ hides palms from Yves Saint-Laurent’s garden in Marrakech, and ‘Wall’ the shadows of old buildings in Morocco. But Helena is also inspired by her adoptive city. “New York has a creativity and openness that I have drawn inspiration from since the beginning of the brand,” she says. “The unconformity of lifestyle and individuality is something I thrive on, and H Fredriksson is born out of.”

Visit H Fredriksson.

Words by Emma Lundin

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