Helen Storey MBE
Professor of Fashion and Science, Co Director Centre for Fashion/Science, London College of Fashion
For Helen Storey drawing is part of a complex language of methods for dialoguing in the creation process, but also for communicating with other people when one is not there at all. Drawing has to show the creative process itself, it has to carry a resonance of it. When working on something as 3D, whether it is a dress or an art piece, Helen’s practice becomes a sort of hybrid between hand gestures, conversations and drawings, and very often the drawings bear the scribbles of three or four different people on them. There is a shared authorship, as well as a negotiation between the 3D object and drawing, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. In representing the body, drawing has for Helen the role of a mediator. And yet, in relation to fashion drawing, Helen admits it constitutes an abstraction from the real and individual body, as a kind of handwriting or a formulaic.
For Primitive Streak, realized in 1997, Helen collaborated with her sister, Professor Kate Storey, a developmental biologist at Oxford University, to create a fashion collection chronicling the first 1000 hours of human embryonic development. The title refers to a productive embryonic structure from which major differentiated organs of the body eventually emerge. Between fertilization and the appearance of the recognizable human form, a single cell (the fertilized egg) divides many times to produce millions of cells. If unchecked, cell proliferation leads to cancer, but the regulation of cell production during embryonic development ensures that the right kind of cells form in the right place at the right time. Exactly how this happens is one of the most important questions in biology. Primitive Streak challenges the commonly held belief that science and art are unable to communicate with one another, and paved the way for several following projects at the intersection of fashion, art and science.
Education and background
- 1982 BA (Hons.) in Fashion, Kingston University, London.
- 1982 – 1984 Trained at Valentino and Lancetti, Rome.
- 1994 MA in Fashion, Kingston University, London.
- 1998 Visiting Professor, University of the Arts, London.
- 1999 Fellow, RSA.
- 2000 Research Fellow, University of the Arts, London.
- 2001 Honorary Professorship, Heriot-Watt University.
- 2003 Honorary Professorship, King’s College, London.
- 2008 Visiting Professor of Material Chemistry, Sheffield University
Helen Storey launched a fashion label in 1984, exporting and selling worldwide. In 1996 she published her autobiography Fighting Fashion, described by Sir Paul Smith as: ‘at last the truth - a perfect and witty account of life and British Fashion’. Helen and her sister, biologist Professor Kate Storey, completed in 1997 the project Primitive Streak, which brought together the worlds of science and fashion. Sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, Crafts Council, Royal Society, The Design Council and London College of Fashion, it has toured the UK and 8 countries where it has been seen by 3 millions of people. In 1999 the Helen Storey Foundation, a not for profit organisation promoting creativity and innovation, was set up. In 1998 and 1999 Helen sat on the National Advisory Committee for Creative and Cultural Education. She has then worked at Eye & I, a project exploring human emotion through eye contact, in collaboration with Dr Jim Coan, Neuroscientist, University of Virginia. In 2005 Wonderland was conceived. It is a collaboration with Professor Tony Ryan, University of Sheffield, exploring how new materials can make consumer products less damaging to the planet. An ESPRC grant was awarded to Wonderland to introduce new material paradigms into the environment through high fashion, as well as unique products created through dialogue across the art/ science divide. Ideas that can change the world was conceived by Helen, and launched in Nov 2006. The project asks young people to define the world they would like to live in, giving them the knowledge they need to imagine and generate creative and ethical solutions to our global challenges. It has been developed in collaboration with Creative Partnerships/Arts Council England, experts and industry specialists.
- 1997 Primitive Streak, ICA, London.
- 2001–2005 Mental, world tour.
- 2005 Primitive Streak, Museu Textil d’Indumentaria, Barcelona.
- 2005–2006 Eye & I, touring exhibition to London schools, funded by Arts Council England.
- 2008 Wonderland, London, Sheffield and Belfast.
- 2009 Wonderland, Arts Award, New York, and UAE.
- 2010 Aware: Art, Fashion, Identity, Royal Academy of the Arts London GSK Contemporary, group exhibition.
- 1996 Fighting Fashion, Faber & Faber Ltd, London.
- 1998 Primitive Streak, exhibition produced from designs made by Professor Helen Storey working with Dr Kate Storey, Helen Storey Foundation, London.
- 2002 The death dresses: from MENTAL, an exhibition by Helen Storey in collaboration with Dr John McLachlan, King’s College, London.
- 2003 “Hotmail: - Can sex in humans be modified by temperature”, Journal of Theoretical Biology (July 2003), by Helen Storey and Dr John McLachlan. It is the first co-authored paper by an artist and scientist.
Grants and awards
- 1990 Awarded ‘Most Innovative Designer’ and ‘Best Designer Exporter’.
- 1990 – 1991 Nominated for ‘British Designer of the Year’.
- 2005 ESPRC grant for £200,000 awarded to Wonderland.
- 2008 Wonderland/Helen Storey is nominated ‘Design Hero’ at 100% Design London.
- 2007 The Helen Storey Foundation web site receives a Studysphere Excellence award for best educational web site.
- 2009 Awarded the MBE for services to the Arts.
Helen Storey’s new project, Free Radicals (first known as ‘Universities United’), brings together the Universities of The Arts London, Sheffield and Ulster, mirroring the cross university and cross disciplinary approach in Wonderland. The Free Radicals Group researches and cocreates new products and ideas to solve challenges facing the planet and human kind (i.e. water shortage). Catalytic Clothing is the new project of the Helen Storey Foundation. Conceived in February 2008 with Professor Tony Ryan, University of Sheffield, it sets out to use the surfaces of clothing to purify air. Working at nanoscale, it investigates how clothing technology can be used to engage the public in the science behind the impact that pollution has on our health. This new project has been awarded funding from ESPRC with the University of Sheffield. Five other UK Universities, as well as Transport for London, GLA and Ecover are partners and supporters of the project.