Inside Carly Helfrich's Home Office

PHOTOS BY KAREN HERNANDEZ FOR THE ASSEMBLIST

PHOTOS BY KAREN HERNANDEZ FOR THE ASSEMBLIST

From fine art to fashion, Carly Helfrich's point of view comes from a place of beauty - though for her namesake label HELFRICH, this doesn't mean aesthetics come before functionality. "It is important to me to design a collection in which I can live my life." Carly mentioned in our interview below, "While I am constantly working to fill any voids in my own closet, I am always looking elsewhere for outside inspiration." 

While wearability is a core focus, Carly also places great emphasis on using quality materials and fabrics. With a focus on knitwear, she contends that the brand is catering to the big need for luxury staples at an attainable price point. Coupling this thoughtful creative process with her formal education in both the arts and fashion design, Carly's experiences have helped pave the way for building a coveted contemporary fashion brand. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, the young designer is thrilled to be a part of the growing fashion industry in California, and finds it to be a place of constant inspiration for the line and her life. What's not to love about sunshine and easy style, right?

When we visited Carly at her home in LA, we weren't surprised to see just how much of her tasteful design preferences translated into her interior choices. Crisp decor and endless natural light provided a perfect setting for our conversation with Carly, where we chatted about working from home, redefining contemporary luxury and dealing with criticism. We we thrilled to learn more from this seasoned designer and are excited to share our conversation below. Also be sure to head to The Style Line for an exclusive second part of this interview.

Please introduce yourself!

My name is Carly Helfrich and I am a fashion designer based in Los Angeles. My path to becoming a designer started with my love for the arts. I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern California with a focus in painting, drawing and sculpture. Over time, I became increasingly interested in the connection and relationship between art and fashion. This led me to enroll in Parsons Paris, where I received a postgraduate degree in Fashion Design. While living in Paris, I took advantage of amazing opportunities around me and spent time working for Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Rag and Bone and Rodarte. My focus became clear—I wanted to work in knitwear design.

After Paris, I started work at Equipment Femme in Los Angeles where I was responsible for sweater design. It was a fantastic experience that allowed me to learn about all parts of the industry. I decided to leave my position there when I felt that the contemporary market was lacking quality knitwear at a reasonable price. The development and founding of HELFRICH was based on two essential ideas. I wanted to create a line that filled a void in the current knitwear market, and I wanted to utilize a conceptual, arts-based design approach.

How would you characterize your relationship to Brand Assembly and what role do people and community play for Helfrich? Who is the Helfrich woman?

Brand Assembly is my showroom partner and I was a part of the Emerging Artist show for Fall 2016. This was an invaluable experience for me and allowed me to expand my network and meet amazing people. I will be showing with Brand Assembly again in Los Angeles for Resort 2017 in June!

We’re always interested in our designer’s process, so tell us: what other areas of your life have translated into your designs/inspiration for Helfrich?

It is important to me to design a collection in which I can live my life. While I am constantly working to fill any voids in my own closet, I am always looking elsewhere for outside inspiration. With my background in art, I enjoy researching past and present cultural influences from different industries and outlets. I think inspiration can be found anywhere, you just have to look. 

California’s contemporary market is on the rise. What have you learned from your neighbors and how have you learned to carved out a unique point of view as a designer? Do you have any tips for those who may be struggling?

It’s been exciting to see and to participate in the growth of fashion in California. From ready-to-wear to activewear, Los Angeles in particular is exploding with new talent and ideas.

I think it is important to understand who your customer is, our product offers the transitional conveniences the modern woman requires by blurring the lines between intimate, active, lounge and ready-to-wear trends. By recognizing and celebrating our customer we are able to fuse functionality and comfort with fashion forward silhouettes and unique quality fabrications, in the hope of creating tomorrow's classics.

When talking about luxury and the contemporary market what’s one of the most important things you’ve learned?

Quality fabric is essential to our brand. In using primarily natural yarns, imported from Italy, we provide luxe pieces that will last. By offering a quality product at an affordable price and designer sensibility our brand is placed in on par with luxury designers but separates itself in our purpose and price range.

Designers are up against a lot of critique, from editors, peers and even customers. But if you had to define your “best” piece what would it be and why? What advice do you have for the rest of the Brand Assembly community of designers on how to work with feedback and/or criticism? 

Having started out as a fine artist I am accustomed to formal critiques. Critique as an artist or designer is always difficult because art is so personal. Over time, I’ve learned that critique by your peers can be constructive and is an invaluable process of growing as an artist and building your business. With that said, it is also important to stay clear in your vision and maintain creative control of your work. It is so important to learn how to balance using criticism constructively while maintaining your creative vision and concept. 

Your work space is so well designed! What have you learned from working from home and what would you say are the biggest advantages of this particular set-up as a young designer?

Thank you! The advantage of working from home is the flexibility - I spend a lot of time in fittings and at my factories downtown, so it is really nice to have comfortable office space to come home to!  I think I have created a really relaxed and productive creative environment by keeping my office space clean and organized, surrounding myself with my favorite art and fashion books! 

It’s hard to imagine that one day is always the same, so tell us what does your day to day generally look like? What parts of the job excite you the most and how have you learned to overcome the challenges that a growing label faces?

I’m in the early stages of my business, so each day is different from the last. I am working on every aspect of the business - from development, concept, design, sales, public relations, to press and production. Every day holds something new and every day is an opportunity to learn more about each of those departments. While some days are more creative and others are purely number crunching, working in all departments creates a fun and balanced work schedule that I think has been very productive and inspiring for me!