By Diane Small
She’s been called ‘One to Watch’ by London design platform Fashion Scout, and she’s been noticed by the likes of Lady Gaga. But what really caught our attention was the fact that she’s also been called the ‘sustainable Chanel’ for her creation of eco-friendly tweeds. Meet Helen Van Rees, a Dutch fashion and textile designer who graduated from Central Saint Martin’s just three years ago, and who has been making her mark on the world of fashion ever since.
Taking the daring step of launching her own label immediately after graduation, Van Ree’s first collection was shown during London and Paris Fashion weeks and was immediately picked up by buyers for prestigious niche brand stores, like the cARTel in Dubai. In 2013, she was already claiming accolades, such as the Humanity in Fashion Award, which she won during Berlin Fashion Week. The award, initiated by Hessnatur, recognizes young and rising designers who create clothing on the basis of sustainability.
Van Ree’s collections feature that signature handmade tweed fabric, of course inspired by classic Chanel textiles, but re-invented into a more modern and sustainable manner. They sometimes feature 3-Dimensional elements, for example, and are made from either organic or deadstock fabrics–sometimes, a bit of both. While we love the boxy jackets she creates, it’s the way that she incorporates tweed into flowing maxi dresses and even shoes that we find really impressive.
Like Chanel, Van Ree’s work isn’t cheap, but you can’t afford the main collection, never fear: there’s also a diffusion line, boasting high quality silks with a digital printed version of Van Ree’s handmade textiles crafted into shirts, skirts and scarves and organic cotton shirts.
With shows coming up both in Paris and London, this certainly is one designer we will be sure to watch.
Runway photography: Marc Aitken