The story of Helmer begins with a trip to Bali. Venturing to Indonesia several years ago, the family team of Shevanne, Danielle and Michelle took notice of the numerous artisans and craftspeople that populated the city. In Bali, they were producing incredible work, meticulously crafting beautiful pieces capable of stunning even the most scrutinising of observers; outside of Bali, however, their labour went unknown and unappreciated.
Seeing this, the family knew they discovered something special, and from there, Helmer was born. Today, the brand produces bags in collaboration with the Indonesian artisans who originally inspired them. But the brand is more than just handbags; Helmer is a lifestyle brand, and Schön! spoke with the label’s founders to see what exactly a title like that means to them.
What about Bali inspired you to start Helmer?
Helmer: From its nature to its rich cultural tradition, Bali captured our soul and we were instantly inspired to create our first handbag collection. We quickly realized that Bali is populated with beautiful, talented and creative people with a great work ethic and these are the foundations upon which we wanted to build our business. Our collections are carefully crafted in Bali by local, family-run artisans that have been creating handbags for generations. These skilled artisans are the foundation of our business and we are committed to promoting and helping our partner businesses to grow successfully. One of our family heritage and commitment is to give back to the community in which we live and work and we have incorporated this goal in our business philosophy. Naturally, as we use the Indonesian island of Bali as our main source of inspiration we wanted to associate our business to a local charity there, The Bali Mother and Baby House. As part of our fundraising project, we have committed to donating a percentage for every item sold on our website.
What is Helmer’s connection to Bali today?
H: This is where our story began, where our inspiration to create a handbag lifestyle brand began. We fell in love with the incredibly talented and industrious people of Bali and gave birth to Helmer. Bali has now become a part of us. We feel that one shouldn’t only define themselves from where they were born but also from the places they lived and that touched their souls. We are a very multicultural family that spans Norway, Jamaica, America and France. We have spent the majority of our lives in France, however, they now live in four countries and cities which are also part of us. Bali has captivated our creativity and touched our spirituality inherently becoming a big part of our lives. Our manufacturers in Bali have become family and with the years the business success has had a direct impact on their community. We now have a duty to our continuing support of this community, as well as to the Bali Mother and Baby house, which is one of the main reason we push ourselves to improve and do better.
How does working with family influence the brand?
H: Helmer was the brainchild of an organic and synergetic collaboration between Shevanne (mother) and Danielle and Michelle (sisters) which began a few years ago. Ever since it has remained a synergy, we are all very different individuals but we remain unified and close-knit with a singular vision for the brand. With Shevanne’s strong experience in public service, PR and fashion, Danielle’s fashion background from Parsons and Michelle’s degree in business and law, this makes up a dynamic and complete team. Helmer is about womanhood and family so working together is the ethos of the brand. Working as a mother/daughters combo is the foundation and the image of the brand.
What role does collaboration play in your work?
H: We strive on surrounding ourselves with other creative and passionate people. In this day and age of social media and the internet, we are constantly exposed to novelty and customers expect nothing less from brands. So collaborating with other brands or photographers or agencies is key as it brings a fresh pair of new eyes to our brand and helps us explore different facets which we might not have looked into. We believe in growing as a team, building communities, exchanging ideas and in general helping others. Collaboration helps us to keep on evolving with the time, to stay ahead of the game, and more importantly form new meaningful bonds while expanding our global community. By bringing together two different synergies and point of views we are supporting one another to create something new and exciting.
Tell us a little about the “Helmer woman”.
H: The Helmer women is a strong multifaceted woman. She is passionate and has a desire to explore the world and capture bits of it. She is dynamic women who is not only intellectually savvy and up to date on world affairs, but she also multitasks from being mother, daughter, sister, to a working lady, homemaker, fitness enthusiast, to a socialite. She has many hours in a day and intends to make the most of it.
What drew you to Louay Nasser for this series?
H: His vision, impeccable aesthetic and quest to explore unusual venues is what drew us to Louay Nasser and his team. Helmer is committed to the idea of collaborating and working with a myriad of different professionals and artisans from around the globe to expose and reveal to the world their expertise and skills, thus building bridges and creating new bonds. Egypt being dear to our hearts, we wanted to create a bond in a creative way for our brand. Louay is undoubtedly one of the most passionate photographers we have worked with. His attention to details, and relentless to achieve perfection is admirable.
How do you think Louay Nasser captured the spirit of Helmer in these photos?
H: Louay Nasser Production Agency was left carte blanche to create a photographic campaign for our new collection, as his creativity, expertise and excellent taste are undoubted. As he has mentioned Helmer is art on its own, every piece is unique and should be treated as such. So we wanted to do a still life shoot for the bags to become its own heroine to this shoot. Helmer is about travels, different cultures, natural elements, being timeless as our Helmer women don’t stop but her bag reminders we’ve got her back at any time of the day or year. His inspiration came from the different shades of sunrise to explore the element of timelessness and the mystical animals that surface at that time.
Turning to Nasser, from your perspective, what about Helmer bags were you looking to capture in this series?
Nasser: Helmer bags is a high-end leather accessories brand which is why it was very important for us to showcase the impressive craftsmanship Helmer’s team put into their products.
What were some of your visual inspirations for this series?
N: Basically the team was very inspired by the idea of recreating a natural landscape indoors, and we thought that the desert would be very cohesive with Helmer bags’ brand identity. So the main visual reference for us in this campaign was creating a still-life representation of wild fauna at dawn, which is why we featured sand dunes and desert habitats.
What are some of the challenges with a shoot like this?
N: The biggest challenge we faced while working on this series was photographing wild animals. It took a really long time for the team to get a good photograph with each animal since they are living creatures and we didn’t want to harm them in any way, so we tried to keep them as comfortable and calm as possible and at the same time make sure that we got a good image.
Finally, returning to Helmer, what does the future have in store for the brand?
H: As we endeavour to work with different local manufacturers from around the world to become creative intermediaries, we will soon have a collection made in Africa, starting in Morocco and quite possibly Egypt. As our intention was always to build a lifestyle brand, next year we will slowly start to introduce new elements in our collection starting with an exquisite, Nomadic inspired, Kimono jacket made to bring along on one’s travels around the world. By the end of the year, other pieces will be added and eventually, we will introduce household objects like pillows and carpets. So we are in an exciting growth period.