The female form is to be celebrated in all shapes and sizes
Helen Steele’s latest collection for Dunnes Stores has everything you need to get active this spring, including hoodies, leggings, jackets and swimwear. Besides being great performance wear, admirers of Steele’s aesthetic can tap into it for a fraction of the cost of one of her beautiful silk dresses or scarves.
Steele says customer feedback influences how she thinks about the clothes she designs. This was particularly the case at the start of the pandemic, when stores had to close and people largely turned to online shopping.
“I got great feedback from customers on what they were looking for in terms of clothing, sizing issues, etc. “, she says.
“When it comes to first-hand information like this, I think you remember it and incorporate it into future collections.
“People were telling me how important exercise was to them – how going for a walk had almost become their night out. We also released a lot of soft, tactile and comfortable clothing and loungewear at the time in response. how people felt.
“Life is different now. Things are very fluid and the clothes adapt to people’s needs and comfort requirements. You can put on your leggings, put your phone in your pocket and measure your steps – you don’t have to go all out at the gym.
“People send me photos of themselves wearing leggings with a glass of prosecco in their hands. The clothes are versatile and for everyone – from busy moms to people working from home in front of their computers.
Those familiar with Steele’s art and fashion design will know that she enjoys incorporating color into her work, and since college she has been fascinated by the therapeutic power of color.
“What keeps coming back to me is an understanding of the power of color and how positive it can be,” she says. “It’s something we really try to incorporate into Dunnes Stores designs. With every print we do, we try to have colors that are both uplifting and balanced.
Steele says developing the collection with Dunnes’ in-house team (which includes a triathlete, ocean swimmer and yogi) has been a great learning curve over the past three years. While she had previously designed stage wear for performers such as Rita Ora and Jessie J, she says innovation in fabric since then means the quality and durability of the fabrics used at Dunnes are far superior.
In many cases, she says, our fabrics are better than those used by major sportswear brands and the attention to detail in terms of printing is a key point of focus.
“We create clothes in an extremely thoughtful way. I don’t know if there are other design teams working on this level. We’re almost painfully scientific with our colors,” she says of Dunnes’ team.
The collection is designed in Ireland to suit the market here: “We consider women in Ireland and what they need in terms of clothing. It’s about reflecting what people need and want.
The current collection ranges from size 8 to 24, with a size inclusion of great personal importance to Steele. Her daughter Halle, a plus-size model, featured in Steele’s photo shoots for her own label and for Dunnes. Having gone through many years of weight loss and weight gain due to an eating disorder, Steele believes she has a responsibility as a designer to create clothing that works for a wide range of people.
“The female form should be celebrated in all shapes and sizes, and I think it’s a mistake as a designer not to embrace that,” she says. “The great thing about Instagram is the feedback I get from people on it – I’ve had people tell me that my collection for Dunnes has given them the confidence to leave the house and go for a walk with friends.”
Steele is very active and therefore has a good idea of what she needs to make sportswear. She was diagnosed with ADHD in her late 30s and says exercise is “like a form of therapy”.
“I try to run three times a week, walk every day and do yoga and pilates. There are also days when I sit on the couch and doodle and eat pizza and drink wine. she says, though she admits the pandemic has tested her recovery from the eating disorder and that of many people she has met in therapy.
She says she wasn’t surprised when she was diagnosed with ADHD and it changed her life for the better.
“The only thing that was constant was drawing and painting and hyperactivity,” she says of life before the diagnosis.
“My concentration was terrible and I could never stick to anything. I’ve always been known as a “daring child” and a “disruptive teenager”… Among women and girls, it [the symptoms] may be more internal than visible,” she explains.
“I think the diagnosis helped me to have more confidence in myself, instead of thinking ‘Am I going crazy?’ There are still things I could do or say that most other people wouldn’t do or say, I don’t do things 100% all the time and I’ve had to learn to live with it, but if I didn’t have the diagnosis and the right medication, I don’t know if I’d still be here, to be honest, it was a relief more than anything and turned what was a negative into a positive.
The pace of creating her collection for Dunnes Stores suits her, she says.
“I love the pace with Dunnes because he’s so fast and we work so far ahead. It’s been a great learning curve to work at this level and it kind of inspires me to work harder on my own collections. Also.
Working on both prints and general clothing design, she says she loves seeing people’s reactions to new collections and seeing how people style clothes.
“I was at a U2 concert in Sydney in 2019 and saw a woman wearing one of my Dunnes jackets. I was thrilled. I used to go and talk to people wearing my designs, but my kids told me it was really embarrassing and ‘a little desperate’,” she laughs. “But I love it so much when I see people wearing the collections.”
- The Helen Steele x Dunnes Stores collection is available in select stores nationwide and online at dunnesstores.com.