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Helene Westbye: the soles of Norway

Filed by Tamara Madison/June 26, 2013/20.08

Scandinavian fashion designers have undoubtedly crossed the global threshold of the industry in the past several years. And, although it may typically be an understood minimal æsthetic showcased, minimalism certainly does not have to be dull.
   Some may believe that simplicity automatically inherits a less than avant-garde flare but, for Norwegian shoe designer Helene Westbye, it’s quite the opposite! With her spring–summer 2013 collection, she proves that with sleek style, there’s an unforgettable edge for all women to enjoy—one that resonates with a diverse age range globally, anywhere from 20 to 50 years old.
   Founded in 2010, Westbye’s eponymous shoe label took off soon after its beginning. This allowed her to focus on the needs of her local clientèle in Norway before considering expansion. Fortunately, the initial collection was well received by locals and in high demand, thus temporarily trading in fjord passages for big city-streets.
   It was Westbye’s recent first-rate collaborative project that showcased her footwear in partnership with (fashion designer) Nina Skarra’s autumn–winter 2013–14 runway show at New York Fashion Week that gave her international acclaim.
   ‘I think the best philosophy behind a good shoe is that I design something that I like to wear. I am never going to be a designer that does pink or yellow, but in my new collection there is a strong purple colour, which I love! My style is kind of rock and roll with a feminine twist, strong expression, and pure lines. I like to think outside of the box, so I would like people to think that they would look back and find a product which they have not seen anywhere else, and keep in their closets for years,’ Westbye said.
   Well, the footwear collection speaks for itself: a fairly uncomplicated colour palette with eye-grabbing details like corset hooks and zippers, both used as embellishment to accompany crisp silhouettes. In her latest collection, you will find styles inspired by her travels as well as a nod to lingerie. Specifically, an actual girdle, is one of Westbye’s favourite designs to date. Other styles throughout the line like the Cut-Out heel keeps the emphasis on a forward-looking silhouette whilst the Organza Bonanza flat sandal combine playful and delicate elements of silk and floral.
   ‘I love fish leather … I kind of like working a lot with the creative materials before starting a new collection,’ Westbye confessed, regarding design process.
   But, being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that everything comes as easy as it may seem. ‘Today it’s impossible to start out well if you don’t have some kind of business skills. Designing a collection is so much more than just the collection,’ Westbye said.
   There seems to be much in store for the emerging designer in 2013. For now, you can expect to see Westbye’s shoes hit global catwalks, as designers pay just as much attention to their sole dressing as well as the garments being showcased. Westbye is also currently collaborating with a Norwegian recording artist, expanding to a New York showroom, and plans to show the next spring–summer collection in København. Watch out for her upcoming fall–winter collection, available in August.
   For more information visit—Tamara Madison

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