Professor Helen Storey is an artist, designer and scientist and she is Professor of Fashion Science at the University of the Arts, London. After graduating in fashion from Kingston Polytechnic in 1981, she worked with Valentino and Lancetti in Rome. Upon returning to London, she launched her own label in 1983. Worn by stars such as Madonna and Cher, Helen’s collections in the late 80s and early 90s questioned traditional notions of glamour, expense and women’s image (boas were created from rags and evening gowns from plastic refuse bags). In 1991, Helen won Most Innovative Designer Of The Year and was nominated for British Designer Of The Year by The British Fashion Council. Then in 1993, tragedy struck. Her husband (who was also her finance director) was diagnosed with cancer. She tried to nurse him through his illness but failed. Within a year of the company going into receivership she split from her husband and found herself on the dole. Following the experience, Helen’s world view evolved. She started to get involved in projects exploring the fields of biology, neuroscience and chemistry. In 1997, Helen established the Helen Storey Foundation to collaborate on projects with scientists – it was co-founded with her ex-business partner, Caroline Coates. In 2012, she won the Condé Nast Traveler Award, for Best Design & Innovation (Sustainability category) for her catalytic clothing project.
One word that describes you? Seeker.
In your own words, what do you do? Seek, with intention to solve.
Who is your greatest influence in your career/life? My Dad – for his deep knowing of the human condition. My Mum – for what it has meant to live by it.
Which is your favourite part of your job? Fathoming.
Which is the part that you enjoy the least? Resistance to reality, both in people and systems.
What is your greatest achievement? I haven’t realised it yet!
What was your Plan B? I don’t even have a Plan A. (“Intuition takes me there” John Lennon)
What is your most prized possession? Emotional intelligence.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given? Love and be loved.
Favourite restaurant? In which city? It may not still be there – a café called ‘Grandma Cooks’ off a hidden alleyway in a piazza in Rome.
Sustainability and consumption are two words you will hardly find in the same sentence – which brands do you think are good quality and are doing their bit for people and the planet? Some brands are truly trying – but they are limited by attempting to realise a new way of being in an old and de-funked way of tradin. This quote keeps finding its way back to me recently, and whilst you could apply it to us all, it’s especially relevant to those larger systems in life that reach many of us simultaneously. “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them “ and until brands come out to define and live by the notion of ‘what is enough profit’, we will continue to struggle to reconcile this.
Do you support a charity or cause? I support many different charities and causes.
What is your personal luxury? Knowledge (not facts).
What steps do you take to make your life more positive? It depends on how you respond to what is deemed negative. I try to stand in the way of chance and the ‘unknown’ to me; in that place, I am most alive.