Born in New Mexico and raised by her family in France, fashion designer Helena Pasquier has been to many places in her life. However, the only place that has ever truly felt like home to her is Williamsburg.
“When I got to New York I thought, this is where I wanted to be,” Pasquier explained in an interview this past week. “When I arrived in New York, the first neighborhood we went to was Williamsburg and I had a crush.”
Although she is relatively new to the Williamsburg arts community, Pasquier descends from a lineage of French fashion icons. Her grandparents were innovators in the lingerie industry, founding the famous Parisian brand Aubade.
“When I decided I wanted fashion to be my career, I spent a month with my grandmother to learn,” Pasquier explained. “I think it was genetic matter. It was in my heart.”
Along with her brother Paul, Pasquier launched the fashion brand Helena Magdalena last year. The brand’s name combines the first names of Pasquier and her grandmother, and reflects the family’s long standing commitment to innovation in the world of fashion.
Helena Magdalena follows the simple mission statement of “Slow Fashion, High Value” and is committed to making small runs of highly individualized pieces with unique fabrics.
The brand’s flagship project – The Alchemy Line – features hand-crafted pieces made with high-quality recycled fabric, metal details, and gemstone buttons. All of the brand’s work is hand-sewn by Pasquier in her Brooklyn studio.
“The whole process is very fluent,” Pasquier explained of her work with recycled fabrics. “For each piece, even if it’s going to be the same pattern, it’s going to be a different fabric. That’s the part that I really enjoy. It is very unique and there is no chance of running into someone who is wearing the same exact piece.”
Pasquier hopes that the individualized pieces will be empowering, especially for women. To this end, many of the pieces in the Alchemy Line are meant to evoke the imagery of female warriors.
“I want women to feel powerful, and for women to be powerful nowadays they feel like they have to dress like men,” Pasquier explained. “I want to try and make the feminine powerful versus trying to find the power by dressing like a man. I’m trying to make clothes that are feminine but that will never restrain you.”
Much of Pasquier’s work is with private clients who she meets in her Brooklyn studio, but a limited supply of Helena Magdalena pieces are available at Malin Landaeus, the vintage shop at 157 N. 6th Street in Williamsburg.
However, Pasquier insists that Williamsburg continues to inspire her work. Since founding Helena Magdalena, Pasquier has had multiple chance encounters with jewelers, fashion designers, and other artists in the neighborhood who she hopes to collaborate with in the future.
“I just love the community that there is here,” said Pasquier. “It is a big city but it feels like a village. Everyone knows you, everyone is creative, and everyone can use each other’s help.
“That’s not really the case in France,” she added. “Everyone is more about pulling each other down.”
Going forward, Pasquier also hopes to share her work more directly with the neighborhood. Last October, Helena Magdalena held a COVID-friendly fashion show in the streets of Williamsburg, with a runway, models, and all the other bells and whistles.
Satisfied by the success of that event, the brand now plans on organizing seasonal pop-up events to share more of their work with Brooklynites.
Despite the roadblock of COVID-19, Pasquier has confidently been able to remain focused and excited with her craft.
“For me, working during the pandemic was not that complicated,” she explained. “It actually brought some new and refreshing things to the world of fashion.”
Visit helenamagdalena.co to see more of the brand’s work.