Velvit Welcomes Eleen Halvorsen
From Norway to New York, our newest edition to our all black clothing collection, Eleen Halvorsen, discusses finding her voice between opposite sides of the world, her design methodology, and why black is her palette of choice
Velvit visited with Norwegian designer Eleen Halvorsen at her Brooklyn studio to learn more about her road from Marketing to Fashion, her aesthetic influences, and the mysterious branch that hangs on her wall.
Velvit: Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
Eleen Halvorsen: Growing up I had no idea I would end up as a fashion designer in New York. It was not really something anyone in my circle talked about. Even though I knew I wanted to do something different and creative, the idea of making a living as a fashion designer didn't really sink in until I was about to finish my bachelor's degree in Marketing in Oslo. I realized I was about to graduate into something I didn't really want. I’ve always been into dressing, and I started sewing clothes for myself for fun in high school with a trial and error based approach. I felt a need to unfold the design ideas I had in my head and could not find in any store. I applied to Parsons at the same time as I finished my bachelor thesis. I got accepted, and now here I am, four years later.
V: What is your earliest fashion-related memory?
EH: It mush have been when I was on vacation in Spain with my mom and dad. I was 5 and I talked them into buying me this pink princess dress with a multi-layered lace tutu skirt and a fitted smocked tank torso and a little matching pink leather crossover purse. I loved that dress, and I still remember the excitement to this day.
V: Did growing up in Norway influence your aesthetic as a designer?
EH: My aesthetic is continuously evolving and moving further and further away from my Norwegian influences and more towards forming my own language as a designer. Now I see my Norwegian background as more of a source of inspiration for mental imagery through memories.
V: Has moving to New York changed your aesthetic?
EH: Definitely. It has trained me to appreciate the uniqueness of an individual designer's voice.
V: How does the New York fashion scene differ from that in Norway?
EH: New York is the city where everything is accepted. There are so many different cultures and points of view represented within the borders of one city that nothing really surprises people anymore. Norway is generally more uniformed and conservative. However, there is definitely a very cool underground scene in Norway that should not be underestimated, and it’s growing. The Norway art scene is more raw, provocative, and unconventional than the one I seem to know in New York.
V: What is your methodology for designing pattern shapes and constructing your pieces?
EH: I like to play with different pattern-making techniques and create shapes and silhouettes that are not expected. I like the idea of reshaping the body. I like to manipulate and play with different materials. It's usually an intuitive freehand process, but I would love to also incorporate technological processes and techniques in the future. I love learning about technology and gaining new experiences and skills.
V: Why have you chosen to design all of your pieces in black?
EH: There's something about black that is so satisfying to work with. I've always been automatically drawn to everything black. When I'm sourcing fabrics and trims, black has a dark and powerful beauty that no color can beat. For the [DE]COMPOSED collection, I wanted all of the focus to be on the contrast between the texture and the shape and silhouette; no colors allowed.
V: What is one piece of clothing you could wear everyday?
EH: The asymmetric drop crotch pants from my Avant-Garde Basics on my web shop. I wear them everyday, either with stilettos to go to a fancy dinner, or with my sneakers and an oversized tee to go back and forth from my apartment to my studio.
V: Does music play a strong role in your creative process?
EH: Music is really important to me. It impacts my mood and my ideas a whole lot. It’s really important for me to listen to music that triggers a certain feeling or a mood that reflects what I’m trying to create or portray with my designs. It’s usually a natural, organic give-and-take relationship between the music and the designs. Right now I’m listening to FKA Twigs a lot; I love her dark, ethereal vibe.
V: Do you think there is a crossover between fine art and fashion?
EH: Fashion definitely can be fine art, and to me there is nothing more beautiful than when it's a successful marriage. To create something that is considered beautiful art and also make it wearable and functional is more challenging than it may seem. But that’s when I feel fine art and fashion really cross over and become a perfectly unified subject.
V: What is the most important lesson you learned when starting out as a designer?
EH: I learned a lot about time management from Parsons – and my lack of it. In the fashion industry you don’t always have time for “perfect”. Sometimes you have to give up all that nitpicking and just get it done. Half a piece of a perfectly executed garment just won’t cut it. Sometimes decent is good enough, and it's definitely better than half-finished perfection.
V: What advice would you give an aspiring designer?
EH: Set specific goals for yourself, and make a strategic plan for how and when to achieve them. Most importantly, write them down. When you start putting stuff down on paper, you realize that what may be clear in your head may not be all that figured out after all.
V: What is the significance of the twig you keep on your wall?
EH: The twig has followed me through nearly all of my apartments in New York, which is coming up to a decent number. I got it from a flower store in the flower district. I partially spray-painted it (black, of course) and drilled random holes in it for little Christmas lights to peek out. Now it only operates as a wallflower, but it represents a lot of my design inspirations: texture, structure, dark nature meets industrial urban lifestyle.
V: Can we expect any new designs soon?
EH: There is a new collection brewing, but it is all in the starting phase. All I can say is that it will be a good one.
For more information on Eleen Halvorsen, visit our Artist profiles and shop our Velvit boutique.