Teresa Helbig

A Wave Of Success

07/05/2019 · By Lala Llorens

Being with Teresa Helbig one feels the freshness and good vibes she instils to her clothes. After 25 years—“or is it 26?”—devoted to fashion, designer Teresa Helbig, who is enjoying a steadily rising international career, is working on the final details for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid, to be celebrated in July. She admits that she has never felt tempted to throw in the towel. “What’s more, we would actually make a bathrobe with godets, a tail and a hood with that towel.” Wow!

The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Madrid (MBFWM) is around the corner and Teresa Helbig (Barcelona, 1964) is working nonstop. She is excited and nervous because she knows all eyes will be set on her. For years, her shows have garnered applause and amassed followers. In fact, the number of #helbigirls keeps growing—from Spanish actresses Úrsula Corberó and Macarena González to international names including Priyanka Chopra, as well as Queen Letizia herself. And it looks like this is just the beginning.

“I would like to see how Spanish fashion positions itself internationally.” Something to which she will definitely contribute when her new Iberia uniforms take flight around the world.

Despite the last-minute stress, her eyes convey the calm of knowing a good job has been done. If there is something that characterises Helbig’s work it’s a profound respect for her profession that she inherited from her mother and which translates into an exquisite care for detail. Add to that creativity, a boundless curiosity and an outstanding taste. Teresa creates fetish, unique garments with the potential to become a distinguishing mark, an armour for anyone wearing them. The Helbig woman never goes unnoticed.

We are at her atelier in the morning. Holding a cup of tea, she moves around fabrics, patterns and racks like a wizard. Always with a ready smile, her eyes sparkle with a special light every time she sees progress or glimpses a new innovation. She says fashion smells of roses, like her brand’s perfumes. To us, her clothes smell of great talent and large doses of love.

Teresa, what is talent to you?
There’s no catch. It’s all down to hard work and to listening to your intuition and your instinct. And then there’s the constant work, day after day at the atelier, working all the time… That’s what nurtures talent.

What is a day like at the atelier?
It’s a surprise because it’s never the same. There are days in which things don’t work as you would expect and you have to find solutions. But there are other very exciting days in which you feel being here is worth it because it’s really wonderful. We’re a great family, a great team, and we can all do whatever at any given point. I may be boxing clothes one day or vacuuming the place the next, it doesn’t matter.

I imagine the journey until here has never been easy. Have you ever had the temptation to throw in the towel?
No, it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve never felt tempted to throw in the towel. What’s more, we would actually make a bathrobe with godets, a tail and a hood with that towel.

Critics praise your style for being fresh, sophisticated and very feminine. How would you define it?
I think it is fresh but also rogue. It has a rebel touch to it. Preciosity is our identity, as well as making quality clothes with lots of love.

Designing Iberia’s new uniforms is a chance to show your creations around the world. What values do they express?
I want people to feel comfortable and elegant wearing timeless clothes. I don’t want them to feel like they are dressed up. I want something fitting and I want the aircrew to feel proud to be part of the company.    

What designers do you admire the most?
I really, really admire, to the point of calling them “uncles”, uncle Karl Lagerfeld and uncle Saint Laurent.

The MBFWM is around the corner. What can you tell us about your new collection?
It is very loyal to what Teresa Helbig means. There is that rogue air to the clothes but they’re also impeccable. We’ve combined old techniques and new technologies to make unique pieces.

How do you feel before and after a show?
Before the show, I mean, six months earlier, there’s a lot of stress. And then there’s emptiness. I’d even say I become very sad, for a day or so, because you can’t afford to feel sad for much longer.

Is it easy to have a style of your own despite the trends?
Trends are cool but fleeting. I think the key, or at least that’s one of our hallmarks, are dresses any mother could pass on to their daughter. The kind of dresses you turn inside out and are flawless… Dresses that say something more.

We are immersed in an unprecedented culture of consumption. What does Teresa Helbig's fashion have to say in this regard?
I don’t understand why we need 35,000 t-shirts. I’ve always been into a very good knit cardigan, which I’ve had for about 15 years. We never have stocks, and all fabrics all natural. One, two, three dresses to wear all your life is enough, really. They’re like an amulet, an armour, a way of presenting yourself.

“If Spanish talent were a garment, it would be a knit cardigan. It’s my fetish garment because it’s powerful, versatile and you can wear it in many different ways”

What women inspire your designs?
I believe the spirit of our brand embodies women who are not afraid to reinvent themselves—they are rogue, tenacious women. Our clients are also a source of inspiration. My mother Teresa, of course, and the women in the atelier—they are all fighters. Then there are our muses, who will always be there. They are the B club—Bowie, Blondie, Berensone, Birkin....

Goddesses and sorceresses have also featured in your collections. Are you superstitious?
I don’t think so, but I must confess we perform a ritual before every show that is absolutely surreal—we sing Rocío Jurado’s Como una ola year after year.

Your mother is your right hand, your husband is in charge of finances, even your daughter-in-law works with you. What role does family represent in your brand?
A fundamental role because we all work a lot doing the same, so it’s much easier. There’s full confidence among us. I would say the whole team is family.

Your atelier is your universe, but what other worlds feed Teresa Helbig's dreams?
I have a bricklayer and a film director within me. My father was a great bricklayer. In fact, I would always be renovating my home if I could. They hate me! And I’m also passionate about cinema. We were the first to do fashion films. We also have a short film entitled Etiqueta negra, and we’re now working on the next one. Cinema is a celebration to us, it is a way to evade ourselves and have fun.

What’s coming next?
There’s the short film we are now shooting, with a screenplay and lots of crazy stuff. We are also working internationally, very focused on Los Angeles. We are working on an online store we will launch next season. We are making miniatures... There’s always plenty of projects going on.

If Teresa Helbig were a garment?
We are all so contradictory… I could be a leather dress but also a cotton tulle dress.

If Spanish talent were a garment, what would it be?
A knit cardigan. It’s my fetish garment because it’s powerful, versatile and you can wear it in many different ways.