STAYING LASER-FOCUSED: Helena Christensen’s upcoming capsule collection with H&M coalesced as naturally as could be.
H&M approached the model-photographer-designer after seeing her floral photography on Instagram to ask about using some of those images for a collection of hoodies, sweatshirts and T-shirts. The Scandinavian retailer’s other ask was that she shoot the campaign, which was another affirmative response from Christensen. The six-piece Helena Christensen x H&M collection lands in stores and online on Jan. 30, but the story doesn’t end there. In an interview Friday, Christensen explained, “As it turned out serendipitously, they booked my niece for the job, but totally unrelated to me.”
H&M found Sarah-Sofie Sonne, who is not a professional model via Instagram. Another stroke of happenstance was that the Danish-born Christensen collects sweatshirts, vintage ones “that are really worn out, soft with the colors all faded.” She said. “It was just such a cool day. I had to go to Copenhagen to shoot it. First of all, that is something I love doing — get a little trip home, see the family. I ended up shooting in a studio with a bunch of people that I have worked with for a long time in the business. My sister came to have lunch with us, and ended up staying all day because of her daughter. We had such a good time.”
Before the collection was developed, Christensen sifted through years of floral photographs. Christensen said she has always shot Sonne, because “she just has the most exquisite face, like a Botticelli kind of face.” Christensen, adding that her niece took to being on a shoot, being part of the creative process, acting silently in front of a camera and pushing herself in what can be an intimidating, but interesting experience. “She is just a very quiet, thoughtful girl and it was very beautiful to see her unfold and interact with the other three girls and to get that whole thing going,” Christensen said. “As a photographer, I kind of forget that she’s my niece — or anyone in my family, when I’m shooting them. I just look at them differently through the lens. That was a very cool experience.”
Next up, Christensen will collaborate with the fashion designer Anine Bing for a capsule collection of favorite pieces they mutually like that they will start to create next month. On another front, she and her business partner Camilla Staerk will be rolling out a resort collection of swimwear, shoes, shirts, dresses and tops for their Staerk & Christensen label.
As a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees agency, Christensen is visiting a camp overseas this week to photograph and interview women there. Later in the week she will speak at a U.N. fundraiser in Abu Dhabi. “It’s so important to bring their stories back from these faraway parts of the world that we all know exist. We know the camps are there. But they just don’t affect us in our daily life, because they are so far away, basically, and they’re not our lives.” She said.
Despite living amidst hundreds of thousands of people and under difficult conditions, women in the camps want to do things for their children — just as anyone else would. “Seeing how they have no possible way of raising them as they want to just hits you right in the heart and the gut, when you go there, are with them and do their portraits. You see the hopelessness in their eyes,” she said.
The content she creates will be used for post-trip media interviews. Christensen said, “Whatever can help — I guess raising awareness is a beginning.”