Fashion. Once bitten, forever smitten!

Helen has been designing clothes since she was 12 and professionally since the 1960s.
Click here for the story of Helen’s life in fashion!

60's Liverpool Leather & Suede Boutique
70's - 80's Collections
80's - 90's Collections

 

 

 

1999s Final Collection

 

 

 

 

1950s & 1960s

Helen always had a love of and instinctive talent for fashion design and was constantly complimented by the Italians on her stylish leather and suede outfits, rustled up on her little sewing machine in Rome, and frequently hand-painted. Suddenly, a parallel career developed. Working freelance, Helen was hired by the couture house of Fontana (still in situ beside the Spanish Steps) to paint onto beautiful silks, which were whipped up into magical gowns for the stars of Cinecitta. Fascinated by the business, Helen observed and learned about couture, which propelled her towards her next venture ...FASHION. “Once bitten forever smitten!” says Helen.

Helen’s home town of Liverpool suddenly rose like a phoenix from the post-war ashes, thanks largely to The Beatles Phenomenon. A surge of creativity was turning the town into "The Swinging City". Whilst the acronym F.O.M.O. (“fear of missing out”) hadn’t yet been coined yet, it only took one call from Cynthia Lennon to see Helen racing home to become a high profile fixture on the scene in her own right.

Helen opened what was almost certainly the first couture leather and suede boutique in the country, in the then very stylish Bold St. Liverpool's answer to Carnaby St or King’s Rd in London. Employing 10 assistants, she produced unique, hand-finished (lace-cut, jewel-embellished, hand-painted) outfits for the hippest young people in town including The Beatles and their wives. John Lennon called constantly with repeat orders for his signature leather cap, worn on the cover of the Help! Album and in the film of the same name, which was repeatedly stolen by fans. Helen enjoyed enormous success in her new career.

“You know Liverpool: everybody wears their money, they always have done” says Helen.

After 3 years of hugely enjoyable and entrepreneurial creativity, Helen married a Belgian television producer/director, closed "The House of Fun” and moved to Brussels. She continued in a similar business, this time designing for other manufacturers, as well as producing a clothing line for Dujardin, the city’s top luxury children’s store.The fashion scene in Belgium at the time was elegant but restrained: very different from vibrant spontaneity of New Liverpool.

Perhaps Helen’s most extraordinary project at this tie was to design uber-hip, mini-skirted cabin crew uniforms in baby blue and pink leather for the Begian national airline, Sabena, in a collaboration with Semaine du Cuir, a trade show for the leather industry.

 

1970s & 1980s

In 1972, when her marriage sadly ended, Helen returned once again to Liverpool with her little daughter Danielle. She yearned to paint but felt, as a single parent, that fashion would provide greater stability and security.

According to a fashion trade paper, Helen was “discovered in Bloomingdale’s” wearing one of her own creations, by a leading US manufacturer of youthful leisurewear. This was enlightening as well as financially rewarding: Helen learned a completely new skillset around mass manufacturing, and to think in thousands of dozens of units. Creatively, though, it was less fulfilling, which led to Helen’s second fashion startup.

Helen produced hand-painted silks and chiffons, which she transformed into diaphanous and romantic 1970s dresses and unusual wedding gowns, often on a fairytales theme. These were sold as exclusive, highly PR-able creations at Harrods and Liberty of London, as well as small specialist boutiques nationwide.

Exponential business growth, fuelled by showing at what is now London Fashion Week, led to a new business partnership and manufacturing base in Formby on Merseyside. Here, 20 talented staff produced couture and demi-couture collections designed for special occasions such as Ascot, weddings and nights on the red carpet. Leather and suede came back into the portfolio, along with magnificent hats. Stockists by now were global, including Henry Bendel, Neiman Marcus and Saks, leading to Helen’s power-shouldered designs being worn in the 1980s by Sue Ellen in Dallas.

 

1990's

In the 1990s a move to Cheshire with her second husband led Helen to convert farm buildings to studios, co-opt Welsh outworkers and operate a scaled-down version of Helen Anderson Designs for 9 years. Helen produced her final and most successful collection just before the Millennium.

“Fine art and painting gave me a powerful sense of form, structure and balance in my fashion career. This was hugely exciting and rewarding but I found myself longing to paint again, and diverting into interior design. So 2000 was a year of change for me” says Helen.