First look at Helen Steele's sophomore athleisure collection with Dunnes Stores
The highly-anticipated second activewear collection by Helen Steele arrives in Dunnes Stores next week. Here, the artist-designer gives Bairbre Power a preview, and reveals how evening walks in the Monaghan countryside were her inspiration
Summer 2018 was long and hot, and designer Helen Steele divided her time between painting in her artist's studio in Emyvale, Co Monaghan, during the day and by night, cooled off and rested her creative soul by walking around the local lake.
Helen set herself the challenge of using that memory in a mindful kind of way, integrating it with her philosophy of colour therapy in her activewear collaboration with Dunnes Stores.
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This week, Helen's second collaboration with the Irish high street brand launches in store and online, and features 25 activewear staples ranging in price from €12 to €40. The two new prints in the collection are a retro floral in purple and green and a chain print, which are a collective memory of the summer sky at various different points.
"I tried to create a memory of that beautiful time. I wanted to choose colours that actually do something for you, so this time, it's not all about going to the gym, it's more about mindfulness, caring for yourself, nurturing yourself and getting out into nature," Helen explains.
Her colours are soothing, and that's for a reason. Purples are to balance the mind and the pink nurtures communications, she says.
The colour palette is refined by grounding, seasonal hues of mint green partnered with neon pinks to provide a burst of energy when working-out.
"We ran with a lilac hoodie and the colour is a mix of purple and pink, and I think it is really good for clearing the head."
While Helen has her own very popular mainline collection of silk dresses in striking prints, the immediate success of her debut activewear collection for Dunnes Stores shouldn't have taken her by surprise. But it did. Especially the blinding array of Instagram photos as fans wore her pieces all around the world. There were photos of people wearing it in Australia, in the States, and Europe.
"It was amazing. I saw pictures of people wearing it up Carrauntoohil, and there was actually someone up Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
"That makes me feel good because this is all about trying to create positivity through colour. Just seeing people happy and with a smile on their face, that is gorgeous. The range is all about comfort. It's about feeling good in the body that you have, in the person that you are and just embracing the world around you.
"I think gym gear should be for all shapes and sizes and ours go from size S to an XXL. Activewear, of all forms of clothing, should not be restrictive," says Helen, "it really should be for everyone and that's something that we really stand by."
Her daughter Halle - who flies the flag for plus-size models with the NotAnother Agency model agency - did her mum's e-commerce photography. The campaign shoot here features Erica Cody, a singer/songwriter/dancer who Helen praises "as very much a young, independent, talented woman."
The vibe in the collection underpins versatility, so the clothes can take you from the gym to a festival and places in-between. The fabrics used include technical ones that wick away moisture.
"Each piece is designed for the optimum workout, but it was also important that I created a something that is fashion-forward, inclusive and colourful," says Helen, who is particularly delighted with a new stretch fabric she is using in the shorts and leggings which is very soft, and light.
The collection features a new shape, a racer-back vest with exaggerated scooped-out shoulders and a panel of perforated fabric down the back. The collection includes two oversized white tees with graphic prints, which come with drawstrings on the waist.
The half-zip retro floral hoodie also has a drawstring on both sides so you can achieve the best shape for you.