PUKAAR MAGAZINE’S JESSICA CHALLONER-STERLAND SPEAKS TO LOCAL DESIGNER HELEN HOWE ABOUT HER BRAND AND THE ADVANTAGES OF RUNNING A BUSINESS IN LEICESTER.
During the 1970s and 80s, Leicester’s major manufacturer’s including Nathaniel Corah & Sons were forced to close after their retailers made the detrimental decision to move their production overseas to cut costs. But as the demands for ‘fast fashion’ continue to increase, so does the appetite for British-made clothing. Helping to restore Leicester’s flourishing textile industry is Helen Howe, designer and founder of Helen Howe Atelier.
A brand that embraces British heritage, Helen’s collections take inspiration from historical styles and the British countryside. Applying specialist craftsmanship to the finest tweeds and suedes, she creates elegant and timeless pieces for women, as well as bespoke items for men.
Whilst studying at John Cleveland College in Hinckley, Helen had aspirations of becoming a designer. At the age of 15, she was able to get a taste for the industry whilst doing work experience with clothing manufacturer Richard Roberts. After completing a BTEC in Fashion, Helen began her career as a designer. But over two years ago, made the decision to set-up her own business:
“The focus for me was to work with people on an individual basis, not just to create clothing that fit them beautifully and lasted, but made them feel great.”
Selling her luxury tweed collection online and overseas, Helen Howe also offers a bespoke tailoring and made-to-measure service: “It’s not unheard of for a man to go out and get a made-to-measure suit, but for a woman to go out and get a jacket made-to-measure is a little bit more unusual.” When creating her collections, attention to detail is a key factor: “I use a lot of pleat detailing, curved seaming and use liberty prints for the lining. The new collection which I’m working on for this year includes military detailing and plays with different weights of fabric including Harris Tweed.”
Located within Leicester’s thriving Cultural Quarter, Helen Howe Atelier resides among other creatives at Maker’s Yard:
“For me, it’s the perfect place to be because I grew up in Leicestershire. At the start of my career, there was still a booming textiles industry. I think it’s important to hold on to that and continue to promote the quality and skills whilst we can. Leicester’s textile industry needs to be remembered, supported and revived.”
Winning Independent Designer of the Year at the Midlands Fashion Award back in June 2016 has helped to raise the profile of the Atelier, and has also opened up new and exciting opportunities:
“I can’t reveal too much, but I’m working on a couple of exciting collaborations to develop bespoke tweeds for different projects. I also have a collaboration with a famous individual over in the states to promote a part of the new collection. It’s going to be a very busy year.”