Helen Storey - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia



British designer

Born: 16 August 1959 in Rome, Italy. Education: Graduated with degree in fashion design, Kingston Polytechnic, 1981. Family: Married Ron Brinkers; children: one son. Career: Apprenticed to Valentino and Lancetti, Milan, 1981-83; launched own label, Amalgamated Talent, 1984; partner/designer, Boyd & Storey, London, 1987-89; first catwalk show, London, 1990; designer, Jigsaw stores, 1990; introduced menswear collection, 1991; designer, Knickerbox, and Empire stores, 1991; introduced 2nd Life line of recycled clothes, 1992; opened store in King's Road, London, 1992; Edith Sitwell-inspired collection, London, 1995; began selling stakes in her stores and went into bankruptcy, 1995; authored book on fashion business, 1997; launched housewares and party favors collection, 1999. Awards: With Karen Boyd, British Apparel Export award, 1989; Most Innovative Designer of the Year award, 1990; Young Designer of the Year award, 1990; with sister Kate Storey, Wellcome Trust Sci-Art Initiative, cash award, 1997. Address: Coates & Storey Ltd., 57 Kings Road, London SW3 4ND, England.

Publications

By STOREY:

Books

Fighting Fashion, London, 1997.

Articles

"Party Like It's 1999," in Los Angeles Magazine, December 1999.

"It's Not the Art but the Taking Part," in the Times Educational Supplement (London), 5 May 2000.

"My Best Teacher: Helen Storey," with Hilary Wilcein, in the Times Educational Supplement (London), 20 July 2001.

On STOREY:

Articles

Wheeler, Karen, "Five Survivors," in DR: The Fashion Business (London), 26 August 1989.

Wolford, Lisa, and Mark Borthwick, "West End's Storey," in Interview, December 1989.

Hume, Marion, "Shock Tactics," in the Sunday Times (London), 17 December 1989.

Armstrong, Lisa, "Success Storey," in Vogue (London), May 1990.

Curtis, Anne-Marie, "Love Storey," in Sky (London), June 1990.

Bull, Sandra, "Multi Storey," in Fashion Weekly (London), 13 September 1990.

Rowe, Gillian, "Storey Lines," in Shop in Town, 14 March 1991.

"Great Expectations," in WWD, 13 June 1991

Chunn, Louise, "Bettering by Design," in The Guardian (London), 20 May 1992.

Mulvagh, Jane, "From the Rag Trade to Riches," in the European (London), 3-6 December 1992.

Dutt, Lalla, "True Storey," in City Limits (London), 21-28 January 1993.

Underhill, William, "The Roaring 1990s: America's Resurgent Economy," in Newsweek, 22 February 1993.

Schiro, Anne-Marie, "Small Houses: Holding in the 1980s, or Back to the 1970s," in the New York Times, 23 February 1993.

Armstrong, Lisa. "One Girl's Storey," in Vogue (London), November 1994.

Spindler, Amy M., "From Young Designers, Familiar Echoes," in the New York Times, 14 March 1995.

Brampton, Sally, "From Catwalk to Dole Queue (Interview of British Fashion Designer Helen Storey)," in The Guardian, 14 June 1995.

"Fighting Fashion," [book review] in the Economist, 15 March 1997

Riddell, Mary, "Interview: Helen Storey," in the New Statesman (London), 12 September 1997.

***

Helen Storey is one of Britain's most innovative and controversial designers. She has been described as "the next great British hope," and rationalized her success in characteristic style: "One of the reasons that I am here and a lot of my contemporaries aren't is because I sit on the knife edge between good and bad taste, fashion and theatre, business and imagination."

Trained at Kingston Polytechnic in Surrey, Storey was encouraged by one of her tutors, Richard Nott (of Workers for Freedom) to apply to Valentino, as her work seemed out of step with the fashion course at Kingston. Storey says of her work as a student at the time, "I was designing wildly theatrical outfits—I doubt if they could even be made up, let alone washed. I tried to think Marks & Spencer but it always came out wrong." She stayed with Valentino's design studio for two years and was much struck by the contrast between the experience in Rome and her student training: "Valentino designed 65 collections a year and was treated like a lord. I felt sick that this kind of sky's-the-limit attitude could never happen at home."

When she returned to London, at the high point of international interest in young British designers in 1984, Storey became one of a group to join forces under the umbrella title of Amalgamated Talent, where she showed six highly successful collections. In 1987 Storey opened Boyd & Storey in West Soho, London, together with fellow designers Karen Boyd and Caroline Coates. Two years later, Helen Storey and Karen Boyd (who were to go their separate ways within the year) won the British Apparel Export award in recognition of their outstanding export achievements. By May 1990 the Helen Storey for Jigsaw collection was available in Jigsaw stores throughout Great Britain, and in October of the same year Storey won the Most Innovative Designer of the Year award with her first solo catwalk show during London Fashion Week.

In 1991 Storey designed her first full menswear collection, which was launched at SEHM, Paris. The same year she was commissioned by the underwear chain Knickerbox to design a range and by Empire stores to endorse and design for their mail order catalogues. In the following year, Showroom Seven was appointed as Storey's American agent, and the fall-winter 1992 collection "Dreams and Reality" was shown in New York, London, Paris, and Düsseldorf.

Storey has been preoccupied with recycling: "Fashion is a wasteful image—full stop! So there's a limit to how much you can fly the ecoflag. As a fashion company my problem is how do I keep selling and respond to environmentalism. We must tackle the problem slowly." In June 1992, Storey introduced a range of recycled clothes under the name 2nd Life, and in the same year she began another significant foray into eco-fashion when she became the first British designer to launch and use the most recent Courtauld's fiber Tencel, the so-called cashmere of denim, for her October 1992 collection. Tencel is the first new synthetic textile fiber in 30 years, and Storey described it as having extraordinary possibilities. "It can be as floppy as silk but has all the robust characteristics of denim." In 1993 Storey continued her innovatory fiber association and marketing with the use of Tencel, Tactel (ICI), and Acetate Novaceta Ltd.

Storey believes "the fashion industry is really a very funny place for me to be," and attempts to explain her work in the following terms: "Basically, people want to see a bit of the impossible in the clothes because it confirms their own sense of reality. I am an instinctual designer; I see that I am attached to the energy of creation, but it also makes me want to give up sometimes because of the amount of unnecessary items we churn out for the sake of another season."

The innovative and controversial Storey did a show in London in 1995. Inspired by English eccentric Edith Sitwell, the bohemian poet and intellectual of the 1920s, Storey's collection included androgynous pinstripe suits entailing fake fur boas, as well as 1920s gowns also showing long trains of fake fur. A year or so later, the award-winning British designer spoke up about the strains of running a fashion business while supporting her husband during his fight against cancer. Selling parts of her shops here and there, Storey believes it is a lack of professionalism that forces designers to be on the move. Brand-building is probably the weakest element in the fashion industry, according to Storey, especially in Britain, where the designer got her start.

But Storey is known well beyond that of the design world. Along with her sister Kate, they won an award from the Wellcome Trust's Sci-Art Initiative, an organization that supports cross-fertilization between art and science. Storey's focus in this cause was to ensure that her designs were an accurate representation of the scientific process. From studying the first 1,000 hours of human life to studying the division of cells under a microscope, Storey underwent a whole new aspect of education most designers never experience in their lifetime. The idea of the cross-fertilization between art and science is that those who are passionate about fashion will also pick up lessons in human biology. Storey describes it as "New Fashion."

Although Storey said she did not miss straying away from the fashion world to accommodate for and learn more about science, she did return to what she knew best in 1999. It was not clothing but instead party essentials she introduced, including Arts & Letters designed to enhance invitations, the Empty Vase for any array of flowers, and Illume for candles. Due to the fact that it was presented before the millennium, the products were highly successful.

—Doreen Ehrlich;

updated by Diana Idzelis

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