- Esmee Blaazer |
For years, Paul Helbers was among the top menswear designers, working for brands like Louis Vuitton and Martin Margiela. Last year he took a step back and launched his own menswear line ‘Helbers’. His first two collections have been well-received by major fashion retailers in France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
”It isn’t possible to entirely impose your own taste on large department stores,” Helbers told Fashionweek.nl in an interview earlier this year. “My approach now is smaller and more personal and I can pay more attention to a product than I could at a large brand. Furthermore, the word ‘luxury’ is no longer part of my vocabulary. In that sense, our clients are very different compared to Louis Vuitton.”
Paul Helbers’ eponymous brand is well received
Helbers made his debut in Paris last year with his collection of formal and casual menswear, which includes chunky knits, trousers, jackets and shoes in the mid to high segment. Prices range from 300 euros for a shirt to 2,500 euros for a coat. His second collection built on this style, but included lighter materials and looser details. The products were already available at Barneys in New York, Mr. Porter and Matches Fashion.>p>In an interview with Fashionista he described his target group as ‘people who care about clothes and want a certain effortlessness’. “I don’t really have an age in mind when I design, it’s more about personality than fashion; a collection in which you find self-expression, without losing your own identity, without becoming a fashion victim.”
Paul Helbers: From consultant to designer for major fashion houses
Helbers worked as a designer for Maison Martin Margiela for five years before joining Louis Vuitton, where he worked under Marc Jacobs in the menswear division. Before kicking off his career working for major fashion houses, Helbers graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and went to work for the now discontinued fashion chain Mac & Maggie in Amsterdam. “It was what H&M is today,” Helbers said of the brand.
Following his time there, he joined forces with several Mac & Maggie colleagues to launch the tailored sportswear collection called Inch. “It was very Dutch. I come from the Netherlands, and when you fly over the country, you see that it too is very much designed. Every square inch is cultivated, and that was also the idea behind the collection,” Helbers told Fashionista. Eventually he quit the label and started to work as a menswear designer in the Netherlands. Not long after, he received a call from Margiela asking him to join the brand as a designer.
His time at Margiela was a major learning process for Helbers, because – as he tells it – he was confronted with a designer who ‘ultimately makes both clothing and fashion’. “I also learned to think before drawing, instead of simply producing and reworking. You follow the entire process of conceptualization,” Helbers revealed.
Paul Helbers takes step back with launch of eponymous fashion label
When Helbers joined Louis Vuitton in 2005, menswear collections were still rather inconsequential. In the time he worked for the fashion house, he was able to double menswear’s revenues. After leaving Louis Vuitton in 2011, Helbers became a consultant for a range of fashion brands, including Chinese cashmere manufacturer Erdos. In the meantime, he also laid down the groundwork for his own brand. Not only did he look for partners, he also explored the way in which his collections would be manufactured. “Where and how my clothing is made is very important to me,” Helbers said.
Helbers chose to launch his own brand because he has a very specific methodology. “My inspiration often arises from a historic perspective; the workshops I worked with are all as old as my inspirational images,” he told Fashionweek.nl. “I often enter into a very close working relationship with workshops, which ensures that traditional craftsmanship is given new life and becomes connected with the present. This methodology is hard to find among existing brands, because there the focus is usually on the research of the product,” he explained in the interview.
Helbers’ use of athleisure features in his collections is not arbitrary. Most recently, he worked in a consultancy capacity for Milan-based womenswear athleisure brand Callens & Co, where he found inspiration for his own brand. “In the end, people can only ever do one thing. I’m a one-trick pony. In the nineties, I had already based my own label on materials for sportswear, but I didn’t yet have the experience I garnered working for Louis Vuitton and Margiela. Since then, I have learned how to use materials without losing their elegance,” he revealed to Fashionista. According to the designer, the latter has proved to be an advantage. “I think that nowadays there is more room to explore this side of fashion than in the past. People travel more, their lives are more dynamic, and so the functionality of the collection emphasizes the way of life.”
Helbers told Fashionweek.nl that we can expect an expansion of this current collection with accessories. “The goal is to someday open our own stores.” These would also offer items like glassware, porcelain and books. “I want to expand and delve deeper.”
During the month of June FashionUnited will focus on the menswear catwalk season. For all reads, click here.