From Iceland — Propelling Forward

Propelling Forward

Published August 30, 2012

Snoop-Around visits Helga Lilja, fashion designer and founder of Helicopter clothing

Propelling Forward
Photo by
Nanna Dís

Snoop-Around visits Helga Lilja, fashion designer and founder of Helicopter clothing

In the last six years, fashion designer Helga Lilja Magnúsdóttir has gone from making street hoodies to founding her own fashion brand, Helicopter. While she is now in the process of closing her store 20BÉ and moving into a new studio, she is far from running out of ideas. We meet Helga at 20BÉ—where photographer Nanna Dís snags a dress from her closing sale—to find out more about her plans.

Have you been doing this for a long time?
I started making clothes upon graduating from the Iceland Academy of the Arts in 2006, when I was 23 years old. I started using a heat press to print on hoodies, trying to go as far as I could from what I was doing at the Academy. I sold my hoodies at The Naked Ape where I had a successful run before Heiða, founder of Nikita, offered me a job with her, which was great. After almost three years I was craving to create myself, so in December 2010 I started designing under the Helicopter name and style. 

Has your style changed since you started making hoodies?
It’s fancier and I use different fabrics now, but I still see it as everyday wear. I keep it casual; it’s important to me that people feel comfortable in what they are wearing. I design clothes that I want to wear and I want to wear things that are practical and look nice at the same time.

After you close your store 20BÉ, where will we find Helicopter?
We are closing this store, but Helicopter is now part of the collaborative shop Kiosk at Laugavegur 65, and I also started selling at Karrusel in Copenhagen, the Duty Free store at the Keflavík airport, Birna on Skólavörðustígur and even at a shop in Eskifjörður called LV. 

The autumn/winter 2012–13 line is in production now and will be available in stores in the beginning of September with an opening party at Kiosk. I like working in a shop where my clothes are sold, being around my customers and learning from the experience about what I can do better. I wouldn’t want to be completely separated from them. 

Where do you draw inspiration these days?
As cliché as it sounds, I just got back from the LungA arts festival in the east of Iceland, and it is just so inspiring to get out of the city and be in the Icelandic nature. But I’m inspired by a variety of things. For example, I found a cushion at my grandmother’s house which I used to make the pattern for my summer 2012 collection, and Wilson’s Bird of Paradise, with its strong colours and feathers, inspired my coming winter collection. 

Next summer, though, it’ll be something different and even though I draw inspiration from looking at books and pictures, I might wind up with something totally different when it comes down to it. I tend to be spontaneous in this way. It’s almost more like specific things, such as my family and childhood, especially my old toys, inspire me more generally to work and create. 

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned over the past six years?
What I am learning and discovering now is not to rush things. I have so many ideas and there are so many things that I would love to do, but I know that it would be too much too soon. Most of my time doesn’t go into the actual design; it mostly goes into the logistics that come with the territory as well as working in the store. But at the moment I have no interest in doing anything else because it gives me everything I want in life.

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