Teresa Helbig: “I would have killed to dress Lola Flores”
At mid-morning on any given Thursday, Teresa Helbig, dressed as Teresa Helbig, with a knitted sweater, studded black leather miniskirt and Jane Birkin-style hair with bangs, arrives at her showroom in full golden mile Madrid, where she can’t keep up with selling custom models to very fine girls and ladies. He has just gotten off an Iberia flight from Barcelona in which the stewardesses —and stewardesses— finally released, after the limbo of the pandemic, the uniforms that came out of his fist and stroke two years ago. Today is the ninth birthday of her youngest daughter, Zinash, an Ethiopian girl whom he adopted with her second partner at the age of 50, and she comes home from here to celebrate. She is beaming. To say that Helbig is having a good day is an understatement.
Does dressing the crew of an airplane put the ego through the roof?
It has given me a rush, I do not deny it. There are 7,000 people working with your clothes on. But, more than that, she takes me back to the clouds, which is where I was when I was little.
Didn’t like the land?
Well, I was never a good student and at school I was a disaster. In the seventies, in El Prat (Barcelona), where I lived as a teenager, there was not much beauty, everything seemed ugly to me, my parents took me to the cinema twice a week, and I wanted to stay and live in the Visconti films, for example. My obsession was to look for beauty, the ugly depressed me.
Her clothes repeat the spikes, diamonds, stripes. Do you find beauty there?
Sure, I love the harmony of symmetry. But, thinking about it, it’s more like when I was a child I saw my father, who was a bricklayer, a great bricklayer, drawing cubes from all angles, I was blown away and I imitated him. My mother was a seamstress. I have something of both. She would dress up my school uniforms, make me bracelets with a can of Solís tomato or Mina foie gras. She was lost and I found my place creating shop windows in Barcelona.
How did you go from dressing dolls to signing the mannequins’ costumes?
Some clients from Madrid invited me to a wedding, and since I couldn’t find what to wear, I bought a sack of feathers, with the help of my mother I dyed them, I put them on a T-shirt, I stood in that dress and gave the note. Even the bride, who was not going very well that day, she freaked out, encouraged me to make a collection and my mother and I started to do it at home. I designed and she sewed. Since she didn’t have a shop or contacts, she would go out to Barcelona and come to Madrid dressed as myself, with the boots that are still the hallmark of the brand. This is how word of mouth began and until now, that clients recognize and recommend each other.
What do your dresses have for that that others do not have?
My clients do not go unnoticed. They tell me: my dresses give them wings, poise, empower them. It’s like a piece of armor with which you’re super secure. Dressing is a relevant fact. Your letter of introduction to the world.
He makes two collections, and short, a year. Can’t or won’t get into the continuous rotation of others?
No. That’s just crazy. I neither can nor do I consider it necessary. We don’t need so many clothes.
I have the trunk full of discounted pingos that sometimes I don’t even open. Am I going to the shrink?
No, I respect everyone, but I would tell you that it is nonsense. You have to buy by illusion. Surely you do not need it, and you still have to know what is behind those clothes, who, how and for how much is sewing it. If a dress costs 10 bucks, someone’s really screwed up on the other end.
Not everyone can afford 3,000 bucks for one of their own.
I know. I have never had pasta. I spent the whole year saving like a beast to be able to buy an Azzedine Alaïa model. And another year, a Mügler. That’s how I was doing my style.
You have to dress every day, not just the special ones.
Clear. I would go in jeans, T-shirts, blouses, cardigans, good and simple clothes, and, when I could, I would buy something good. Clothes last a long time.
But it goes out of style.
It’s all made up. Take what you want to take. That’s why I don’t go into doubling collections. It’s crazy. We are there.
Tell me when your daughter is 15 years old and wants everything and that’s it.
Well, I still get the divine punishment (laughs). I can’t tell you that.
Confess that you have ever stung in a ‘low cost’ brand.
Zara? Shein? No, I don’t buy, it would be absurd to say one thing and do another.
There are fat people who can’t find nice clothes in their size.
Well, let them come to Helbig. We work to favor the female body. We know what to hide and highlight. I guarantee that we could make clothes for an 80-year-old woman, or 100 kilos, and have her look fantastic.
What horrifies you to die?
The intolerance. It makes me feel bad physically.
I was referring to aesthetics.
I can not with him moment hair tie She is superior to me. It’s about picking up your hair, not putting on a pennant. Better put on a chicken rubber than that horrible thing.
Well, in this neighborhood there is a plague of them.
Yes, but less than in the nineties, when it was a horror to go outside.
A year ago, he said in an interview that Madrid “is out there.” Does it keep ‘dropping out’?
Yes. I’m talking about a certain Madrid, of course, but that Madrid is bursting with joy, with the desire to be on the streets, with spending money and, yes, with the appreciation of good and beautiful things.
Are you asking for it?
I dont complain.
How does it feel to see global celebrities wearing their clothes on the red carpet?
It’s going to be bland, or ordinary, but the truth is that it turns me on. There is a lot of work behind each garment. We have been in the trade for 25 years, we have dressed two generations, we have already adapted models from a mother to a daughter or a granddaughter. A Helbig is for life.
She has dressed goddesses like Zendaya and queens like Letizia. What divinity is missing from the list?
I wish Kate Moss would cheer up. And she would have killed to dress Lola Flores, but it’s going to be complicated.
It is at the gates of 60. How is the transit?
Do you want to believe that I realized two weeks ago that I am a lady in her late sixties? I don’t think, I shoot. I thought she didn’t mind getting old, but I suddenly became aware. We were talking to my team about the brand 30 years from now, and I didn’t even want to do the math. It also happens that now, the elderly, the baby boomers we will be the majority So, we will have a lot to say and a lot to contribute, and I will be there for that.
Carolina Herrera says that long hair is not elegant at her age. Is that bangs for rebellion?
Yeah, a bit dictatorial Carolina, don’t you think? I also have white hair and I still dye it. I love gray hair in others, but my time has not come. I’m not yet ready to put on my ponytail and retire to the field. Change the casing, but not the inside.
PLANES AND CARPETS
Teresa Helbig (Barcelona, 58 years old) dresses ground and flight attendants and red carpet goddesses. From Queen Letizia to Hollywood celebrities like Zendaya, including hundreds of brides who order her wedding dress, Helbig’s clients, whom she calls the Helbig Gang, they appreciate the personality and uniqueness of exquisite garments made to measure in no more hurry than the artisans who make them can undertake. Granddaughter of a German who emigrated to Barcelona, daughter of a bricklayer and a seamstress and mother of Pol, a 29-year-old boy, and Zinash, a 9-year-old Ethiopian girl, whom she adopted at 50, Teresa Helbig hopes that her pieces unique and timeless in a world of ultra-cheap, fast-moving fashion.
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