Eleen Halvorsen, a Norwegian-born designer, has presented two collections since graduating from Parsons The New School for Design in 2012. She has cultivated a brand that is edgy and modern, yet timeless. We highlighted her second collection [De]composed several weeks ago, and speaking with her directly has only solidified our belief in her talent and expertise.
How has your education at Parsons contributed to your success?
EH: I did sewing and stuff back home, but I had no idea what I was doing. Then I found my way by looking at the garments, how they are put together and thinking I’ll do this and that. I didn’t know what pattern making and draping was, but those are skills that I learned while at Parsons. Parsons gave me the tools, and my aesthetic is my aesthetic, but I wouldn’t be able to execute it if it wasn’t for Parsons.
What is the fashion culture in Norway? What inspired you there and how does this play into your designs?
EH: Norway is very conservative. For me, the choice would either be go here [New York] and do fashion or stay in Norway and do marketing. I have my roots there, but most of my design and aesthetic has developed [in New York]. I still pull ideas from back home. That’s where I get the dark moon [for my first collection], but the actual clothes come from [New York].
What are the differences between your style in Norway and your style now?
EH: I was more colorful back home. I was the one with different styles. My style has evolved from girly to purely one style that represents the brand. I don’t wear tight clothes, it’s more drapey and you can’t really see me inside [the clothes]. I love the look of it. The girly style would be wrong for my aesthetic. Now I’m looking at clothes very differently. I look at the construction rather than the color or pattern.
What does the concept behind your first collection, Dancing Under the Black Moon, mean personally and how is it made tangible in your clothing?
EH: Moon phases are something I find very interesting. I was working on the collection around my birthday and found that it fell on a new moon. I realized this in the development phase and everything just came together from there. The new moon is new energy reset and when you’re there, you’re between the old and the new. It was my first collection so it’s showing the past but also bringing new energy, the future.
Do you feel the wearer of your clothing gives life to the fabrics or do your designs hold life on their own?
EH: It’s like a marriage. The clothes are very subtle, they have details, but they don’t scream. If you have the right person that wears it with an attitude they give extra energy to the clothes. It changes with the person.
How has your second collection progressed from your first? How did their inspirations differ?
EH: The second collection was not as deep. I love having new projects, but then I get over it before it’s done because I’m onto the next thing. So I had a lot of unfinished projects that had potential. With [De]composed, it was constructing by deconstructing, using my own patterns, taking old ideas and progressing from that. It made me grow to see that I can use what I have.
What is your favorite piece you’ve designed?
EH: I like the ones that come about randomly. With the yarn dress in my first collection, I had no idea what I was doing starting out. I had this ball of yarn and I needed to use it. So I just started draping. It was this intuitive kind of work. I loved it.
Where do you look most for inspiration and how do you tie this into the design process?
EH: You are always going to be compared to a designer no matter what, so I stray from that. I always take from emotions for inspiration. If it’s dark or happy, I use that and translate it into clothes. It comes from within.
Are there any hints you can give us to what you’re working on for your next collection?
EH: I’m still in the developing phase. Sometimes it takes a while and I feel lost in between collections. Then something happens and it’s full-on work 24/7. Right now I’m still trying to figure it out. I haven’t really settled on something. I’m playing with different ideas, trying to decide which direction I should go.
Closing the interview, Eleen thinks about working on her next collection, taking her sketchbook down to the water for inspiration, and echoes:
I love the water, it reminds me of home.
Check out Eleen Halvorsen’s newest collection.
Photography by Carlos Basora.