London-born Visual artist Helen Anna is highly sought after for her aesthetic and knack for storytelling. Helen has a postgraduate in design and has also studied language, silversmithing and textile design. As a freelance creative in Vancouver, Helen’s fashion clients span everything from backpacks to bridal couture. We sat down with Helen on the front row of VFW to talk Vancouver fashion and style icons, and to dig deeper into Helen’s fascination with the power of colour.
What are the cons of freelance?
You have to be really motivated and you have to be really driven. Time management can be a problem - not for me, but I know people that have struggled with it. You also can’t be shy - you have to be ready to put yourself out there and tell people what you do and show them that you believe in yourself to convince them to put their dollars behind you. Overall, though, there are very few cons - it’s mostly a lot of pros!
What are the pros of freelance?
The biggest pro for me is being able to work whenever I want. Creativity ebbs and flows, and as a freelancer, you can work within your rhythm, and take time out when you’re not feeling so creative. It’s great to be able to fit my work around my life, rather than vice versa!
Another pro is that you get to learn about your clients and their industries. Not learning anything new had been a challenge for me in my corporate past life, so I really appreciate the opportunities I get now to keep expanding my knowledge.
How would you describe your personal style?
It’s a bit of an eclectic mix. I do love designer brands - which would be something I would have never said even five years ago. As I’ve gotten older and been able to afford labels a bit more often, I’ve just realized the quality is just so much better. If you compare it with fast fashion, one will be in the trash in six months, and one will still be loved for many years to come. I also think the way you treat your clothing changes when you’re investing a little more in it - it becomes a precious object.
What inspires your style?
I find I admire women from the past! Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn, Francoise Hardy - if you look at their outfits, and the look is still good today, that’s a good sign that that silhouette is on point.
What’s your favourite decade?
If I had to choose it would be the 60s. There was also a lot going on socially and that turbulence showed up in fashion. Social trends materialise into fashion years later - the hippieness of the 60s really materialised into fashion in the 70s!
Who is your biggest style icon?
If I’m in a rut, the first person I’ll look up is probably Alexa Chung. She’s really beautiful and her care-free attitude comes through in her clothing. She’s very magnetic and charismatic, and I love that.
What is it about colours that interests you so much?
I remember in my first year of design school they wouldn’t let us touch colour at all - everything was black and white in order to learn the basics of design, form, and shape. I remember complaining to one of the older students that I wanted to get my hands on colour and he turned around and clapped back ‘you’re not ready for colour yet.’ That comment always stuck with me because at the time I remember thinking: ‘buddy, you don’t know how wrong you are. I’m SO ready for colour.
I run a colour series on Instagram where I ask the same question (what does this colour make you think of?) to hear how people respond to different colours. It’s always so interesting. Someone might answer that it makes them feel ‘bored’ and someone else might say ‘it reminds me of a stormy day at my grandma’s house.’ People can have such different interpretations.
Have you noticed any patterns in people’s answers?
There are certain colours that are so ubiquitous. If I post a colour that is used by a brand, for example, people will always comment that it made them think of the brand. One thing that’s surprising to me is that when I post a new colour I always have a very clear idea in my mind of what that colour is and means, but no one has ever said my answer ever. It just goes to show how subjective the whole thing is.
What is your favourite colour?
I really love International Klein blue. It’s close to the colour that Matisse used in his blue nudes.
What is the most positive response you’ve gotten to a colour?
I get a lot of positive responses to that sunflower-y kind of yellow. People share lots of childhood memories with that colour. It always amazes me how personal people will get when I ask what a colour makes them think of.
What do you think will be a big trend this year?
There’s an accountability in fashion now that we didn’t feel even just a few years ago. I remember working in fashion a decade ago, and sustainability and eco fashion was kind of like this niche pocket that felt a bit granola-y, whereas now its more of a mainstay: more consumers are asking “where is this piece coming from”? I believe the more we as consumers ask those questions to designers and brands, the more that question is attended to by their shareholders, and the more it is taken seriously. We have to find resourceful, healthy ways to produce our clothing that is going to benefit the planet and benefit people - and still look bomb as well!
Thank you Helen for giving us an insight into your world. Readers- take a look at Helen’s beautifully curated Instagram here.