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Local womenswear brand Helena Quinn's soft, sexy, floaty garments could only have been dreamed up in an equally feminine and breezy space, which is exactly why designer Andrea Racey scouted out such a place for her design studio. Her light-filled spot in the Fashion District is loaded with elements to soothe and inspire Racey as she sketches out her effortless silk rompers, robes, maxis, and more. But the fact that her clothing can't only be described as "sweet"—there are also plunging necklines, high hemlines, and open backs—might be attributed to her urban surroundings. "I like a little grit with my palm trees," she tells us.
Beyond the influence LA's downtown skyline has aesthetically on the collection, it's also just practical. Helena Quinn is manufactured a stone's throw from Racey's studio, which lets her stay super hands-on during the process. The fact that her clothes are created top-to-bottom locally (she's even begun designing her own fabrics!) also means providing work for the city's craftspeople. We got the chance to learn about that process and more when we popped into Racey's design studio to browse the gorgeous garments and chat a bit about her brand.
The phrase "Who is your girl" is posted next to your inspiration board. So we must ask, who is the Helena Quinn woman?
Present, mindful, and engaged in the world. Disheveled, but with her shit together. Compassionate, but also unabashedly self-indulgent. Figuring it out. Beautiful, but not always pretty. Unafraid to make mistakes. Nicely on her way.
Speaking of which, what's the story behind your label's name?
In design school I had to create a collection for my senior thesis. We had to come up with a name that directly reflected what we wanted our brand to articulate and embody. I thought of my grandmothers. They were both Irish Catholic, each had 8 kids, and
worked outside the home (wtf I can’t even keep a plant alive). At the same time they were always incredibly elegant, poised, and took pride in how they presented themselves to the world. I wanted a name that embodied that balance of strength and femininity. So I put their names together and Helena Quinn was born.
Why is it important to you to manufacture locally?
First of all, and most importantly, I think it's vital to support the other local tradesman and workers in the garment district. Second, being a relatively young company, it gives me much more control over the quality of the production. When you send things overseas you are basically at the mercy of someone else’s quality standards, unless you have someone on your team over there monitoring it. You are also forced to deal with longer turn around times and higher minimums. I happen to love being in the factory. It’s an inspiring place to me and I learn new things every time I’m there that make me a more effective designer.
You work pretty exclusively in silks. What made you choose such a luxe material?
To me, it comes down to affordable luxury. Some people might look at that statement and think, "$298 for a dress is not affordable. This woman is a nut-job." But think about what you’re getting for that amount: a 100% silk garment that is manufactured in the United States, made by hard working people, and that's also cozy as shit. Do you
still want to go to Zara? It’s important to me that the brand maintains its integrity. If you’re going to spend a portion of your money on our garments, I want you to feel luxurious. And that doesn’t happen with polyester.
What should we keep our eyes peeled for in your next collection?
We’ve been doing very well with our new intimates collection. I have been getting so many requests from brides specifically, about the new kimono robes and jammies. So without divulging too much, that is a market I’m really excited to start creating product for in the coming months. Stay tuned!
A lot of It-girls have worn your garments. Who else would you be excited to see in one of your pieces?
It’s always amazing to see celebrities, bloggers, and tastemakers in Helena Quinn, but to be completely honest I actually get so much more excited when I see regular girls wearing HQ and tagging it on Instagram or other social media outlets using our new #hqgirl hashtag. When I see that, I know that they have devoted some of their hard-earned money to wear one of our pieces, and that gratifies me more than anything. There are a lot of places they could spend that money, and to know that they felt like our product was the one they wanted to commit to makes me feel incredibly grateful and motivated. So girls, keep those selfies comin’!