Senior Spotlight: Helena Walker
For this week's Senior Spotlight, we got to know senior designer Helena Walker. Read our exclusive interview below to learn more about Helena and the incredible collection she's presenting at this years Silver Needle Runway Show. Make sure to follow the @maristfash Snapchat to see Helena take over for the day!
K&E: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you’re from, if you have a minor, anything you’d like people to know about you?
Helena: Hi! My name is Helena Sherman Walker. I’m from Newport, Rhode Island, and I am a Senior Design Major with a Double Minor in Product Development and Medieval Renaissance Studies. I studied math and science mainly in high school to become a nurse, and then the Summer before Marist, I applied to the design program and got in! I love traveling the world and pushing my limits, which is exactly what the Fashion program helped me with.
K&E: What has your 4 year journey in the Marist fashion program been like?
Helena: I’ll just say an emotional rollercoaster is an understatement. More like a hysterical category 5 storm… with puppies. And no I don’t mean you’re stuck inside your house with puppies, because honestly that sounds awesome. I’m talking about how you’re running to safety and you see a cute puppy and there’s that glimmer of hope to save it, but then a tsunami washes it away. These four years have been the toughest thing ever, but I do not regret any of it. I have learned so much and found myself as a person and I wouldn't trade that for the world. The world doesn't give you anything you can't handle.
K&E: What is a typical day for you like while capping as a senior designer?
Helena: My days aren’t that exciting. I wake up at 8/8:30 and head to the fashion lab. I have breakfast, then work, then lunch break, then work, and then dinner, then work, then second dinner, then work, then midnight snack, then work and then 2:30 AM snack, and then finally bed. Repeat.
K&E: What inspires you as a designer, where do you find inspiration?
Helena: I’m inspired by people who aren’t afraid to be themselves. I love confidence and individuality. I like to stand out and I'm inspired by people who do the same. My best inspirational ideas come from the two hour train ride I have to take often into the city for fabric and garment finishes. Listening to my music and staring into the Hudson, having some minutes to myself helps me open up my mind.
K&E: Are there any specific designer(s) that inspire you?
Helena: Jeremy Scott! And, he’s not a designer, but RuPaul.
K&E: What are the hardest parts of being a design major?
Helena: Honestly, not sleeping. There’s something calming and detrimental when you haven’t slept in three days. You have a lot of out of body experiences, and start seeing people in the corner of your eye. But when you finally hit your bed, you haven’t slept any better than in that moment.
K&E: Have any personal experiences inspired your collection?
Helena: In fact I do. You see, for my senior collection I am designing half of it as plus size, and the other half straight size. When I was in middle school, I was bullied for my weight. I soon became depressed and bulimic for about a year. Wanting to be skinny was the only thing I thought about. I was told at school and at home that my weight was a problem, and that’s exactly what it became. I thought of it constantly, checking myself in any mirror or window that I walked by making sure I sucked in my stomach and made sure my arms didn’t look fat. It was awful. I’m taking that experience into account with what I want to do with my career and the future. As a designer, I want to create clothes for people who aren’t afraid of being themselves, and that their weight, body shape, skin color, or gender doesn’t define who they are to society and that my clothes would eventuate them.
K&E: What is the main concept or idea behind your collection?
Helena: My inspiration is Organic Machinery. When I was first doing research I was inspired by the cuttlefish fish, an organism that can change its skin to different colors and different texture to blend into its surrounding. After that I also started getting inspiration from post-apocalyptic fashion, cyborgs and robots. I was inspired by the lines that medal pieces created as they were being put together and turned it into seaming details. I also used metal on my organic fabric dying by rust dying fabric, or using rusted bolts in my circle burst dyes. The velvet burnout pattern is inspired by circuit boards.
K&E: Could you describe your collection in three words?
Helena: Juxtaposition, organic, machinery.
K&E: Describe the women/man who would wear your collection.
Helena: The women who would wear my collection are confident and quirky. She works in some kind of art field, whether it be studio, or graphic design. She likes standing out and wearing fun prints and pieces.
K&E: Do you have any hobbies outside of fashion design?
Helena: Can napping be a hobby? It’s not? Then when I have time I like to run and go to the beach. I’m a huge swimmer, and when I say swimmer, I mean staying afloat.
K&E: What advice would you give to younger designers or prospective Marist Fashion students?
Helena: Do it. You will never be more tested of what you’re capable of doing then this major. You mature on a whole new level and you don’t even recognize the boy-crazed 15-year-old that you once were.