GRAPHIC DESIGNER, CO-FOUNDER OF ELECTRONIC SHEEP
Written and Photographed By Kelley Mullarkey | Video Produced By Sean Stillmaker
In the 90s people used to say, “there’s no style right now. Culture is dwindling. Everything has already been done and seen.” Similar to modernity’s seemingly pessimist attitude, 15 years ago everyone was so quick to write the scene off.
When we look back today with wonder, we admire the way women emulated such chicness with their relaxed boyfriend jeans, sheer Calvin Klein T-shirts, bedhead locks and crisp motorcycle boots. As Helen says, “style after all, is very retrospective.”
In her leather ankle boots, vintage dresses, jacquard scarves and urban weather inspired “Typhoon Puppets” prints, Helen and her quirky personal style account for one half of Electronic Sheep’s hyper innovative team. The brainchild of herself and designer best friend Brenda Aherne, Electronic Sheep is the playful, socially aware, cultural obsession we’re all secretly dying to be apart of.
Long before her fashion designer days, Helen latched onto clothing as a means of bonding and understood the life they possessed. To Helen, clothing represented music, sub-cultures and more importantly, an experience.
Raised on a suburban street in Dublin, Helen grew up in a household surrounded by fashion.
“My mother was quite glamorous in the 70s. She wore top hats, black and white flares and was always so confident. She just had her own style. I admired that.”
Far from a girly girl, Helen found her tomboy counterpart early on when Brenda moved in next door. Soul mates from the start, the two were secretly destined to be creative counterparts all along.
“There was a natural energy going on immediately between Brenda and me. I remember I had a beloved pair of customized blue desert boots that I was so proud to own, and Brenda told me she liked them. That’s kind of where everything started.”
It’s impossible to trace back the linage and evolution of Helen’s style without mentioning Brenda. It’d be like Italy without wine and pasta – it’s just not feasible. Plus the beauty of Helen’s style rests in the memories and intimate stories she shares with Brenda.
Blessed with an older sister who was heavily submerged in the music scene growing up, Helen used to creep upstairs as a youngster and try on the Ska boys Herrington jackets (which reeked of smoke) when her sister would throw parties. A beginning guide to the pre-hipster mindset and era. Helen experienced first hand the relationship between clothing and culture.
Staying true to her interest in the fusion of music and style, during her adolescent days between the age of 12 and 18, Helen only hung out with rockers who sported long hair and embraced the sub-culture aesthetics.
“It was about how committed you were. Brenda and I were very critical about our appearances. We would banter back and forth about who wore the best cut off denim vest with ACDC logos on the back or who had the skinniest jeans.”
Bouncing from her self proclaimed “Cure Head” days of shredded tees and late night gigs to short skirts and London’s fierce club mentality, Helen laughs as she confesses to Sean and myself the period in time where she secretly “cheated” on her rocker look.
“London had a huge influence on both my style and inspirations. I had a very clever cousin who lived in Kensington and always knew everything that was going on. She introduced me to a new look of club clothes. There comes a point where you get a bit older and want to stop looking like a boy. That was the turning point for me.”
Never far apart and always riding high on a similar wavelength, both Helen and Brenda went on to study at Dublin’s National College of Art and Design. Graduating with a degree in graphic design, Helen creatively bounced around spending time working for both design firms and fashion publications such as Glamour.
During her time in New York City, her personal style took another turn and adapted to the coveted simplistic minimalism of the time.
“It was a change in style for me. I was working in fashion for a glamorous publication, went to Bloomingdales every Saturday for two years and would purchase something. I had never bought designer clothes previously, so I had the guilt complex at the beginning.”
Nowadays her personal style is a combination from all different decades. A retro girl at heart, she’s always got one eye looking forward and one eye looking back which shows through her designs. Favoring vintage finds alongside a cleverly curated selection of Electronic Sheep pieces, Helen’s aesthetic is as interesting as the development of the brand itself.
Brenda recieved funding to start the company in 1999 and nearly lost it because the foundation did not like the name and demanded it be changed, Helen recalled. In the end the duo righteously won.
Always ahead of the game, they have gone to create an Electronic Sheep comic book that rears its head every now and then in various collections.
Sticking to just one collection per year, Helen pours her heart and soul into everything she does. Always keeping one foot in the freelance world, Helen is also an art director for SlashStroke magazine.
Inspiring us to always dress the way we want, pay tribute to the culture of our time and bring our passions to life, Helen offers us a life lesson, straight from her storyteller father.
“You can do anything you want once it doesn’t hurt someone else.”
Music By Randy Conrado