dhela-interview
Image courtesy Daniella Helayel
Interview

Daniella Helayel

04.18.17

While the name Daniella Helayel may not be instantly recognizable, but the brands she creates certainly are. The Brazilian-born founder of the globally successful brand, Issa, Daniella started the brand in 2001, years before social media and See Now, Buy Now influenced the way brands did business. She was a small, but successful brand when Issa was suddenly catapulted to unprecedented levels of fame when Duchess Kate wore one of her dresses for her engagement photo with Prince William. Three years later, she sold the label, took some time off, and is now back with a new line, DHELA. The line is full of Daniella’s most memorable design signatures: flattering silhouettes, vibrant colors and patterns, and versatility, versatility, versatility. Daniella is the queen of designing dresses for all types of women – she did this with Issa, and continues to do so with DHELA.

Interview

How did you decide on the name DHELA?

I love my name, Daniella Helayel, but I don’t think it’s a brand name. I’ve always preferred short, catchy names which are easy to remember for brands. I see DHELA becoming a lifestyle brand, not just fashion and can imagine the name working well for it throughout the brand’s growth. I can see a DHELA perfume, candles, many things.

DHELA are my initials, but “DHELA” also means ‘belonging to her’ in my native Portuguese. It is elegant and sophisticated and easy to memorize.

What is your vision for DHELA in comparison to your previous label, Issa?

DHELA is very much my style and design DNA, but at the same time, it is an evolution and the next step. With DHELA I’m very interested in developing knitwear styles and working with technology that didn’t exist while I was at Issa.

My design philosophy when I founded Issa in 2001 was to create well cut, timeless clothes that would empower women and make them feel confident in their own skin. This has never changed and never will. I design so women feel the best version of themselves; to look glamorous, beautiful and elegant while being able to get on with their lives, whether they be businesswomen, mothers or dressing for a party.

Both brands focus on beautiful, flattering shapes, gorgeous colours, lots of prints and bringing a bit of easy elegance to women’s wardrobes. DHELA is very much about who I am right now.

I have to ask, how did it feel to see Duchess Kate wearing a dress from your collection during one of her most memorable events?

It was a fairy tale moment, pure magic, and I’m incredibly flattered that she chose one of my designs for such a special moment. I think the reason it resonated around the world is because that dress would suit every woman, of every race, every nationality and every body shape.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

DHELA is very much ‘me’, it is an evolution from Issa and has been influenced by the things I’ve seen, done and experienced since having a couple of years away from the industry. Like I said previously, my design philosophy when I founded Issa in 2001 was to create well cut, timeless clothes that would empower women and make them feel confident in their own skin and this continues to be true.

What has your experience been like entering the market again with a new label?

Having founded a globally successful company at Issa I am definitely in a stronger position to deal with all the challenges that will come with DHELA. Nothing beats experience and I’ve seen every part of the process from the very first mood boards of a collection to the shop floor. I grew up with Issa, learning along the way, making mistakes and finding solutions.

However, it is important to remember that the world is changing rapidly. Things like social media, online shopping and shopping straight from the runway simply didn’t exist when I started Issa. The only way we can face new problems or questions is with an open mind and fresh perspective. This is a new label and a new era; I want to look forward, not back.

What celebrities would you like to see wearing DHELA?

Alicia Vikander, Zoë Kravitz, Penélope Cruz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Natalie Portman, Emma Watson and Eva Mendes.

Your love of colour and vibrancy translated beautifully throughout your Spring 2017 collection. What inspired this motif?

Spring Summer 2017 is my first collection for DHELA and was inspired by the Amazon and ORCHIDS. I’ve always gained a lot of inspiration from nature and the Amazon is just magical the more you research it. In particular, I started to focus on orchids and more feminine plants and flowers that can be found in the forest. Bright, lush, verdant colours and natural, exotic prints.

Are there any trends you’re most excited to see this Spring?

I’m particularly fond of the long, knitwear dresses and have worn the styles to several events myself. They are fantastic and ensure you are the center of attention, look fantastic and show off your figure while simultaneously being extremely comfortable and easy to wear.

What is the key to mastering vacation style while living in the city?

I quite like the bohemian vibe and that suits the city and the woman I design for. She can be anywhere during the year, from London to Ibiza, and the pieces would fit wherever she went. One more reason why I love to have long dresses in my collections.

What is your go-to weekday style?

I like to wear my fit and flare dresses combined with knitwear or on more casual days I usually wear long shirts with leggings and trainers.

What are you most looking forward to as you continue developing the DHELA brand?

I definitely see DHELA as an international brand. It will have a strong resort and holiday presence; I love designing for warmer climates thanks to my Brazilian heritage as it comes very naturally to me. I’ve been fortunate that my designs have always appealed women from around the world and in this time of globalization; I don’t see any boundaries for the DHELA woman.

We already have  opened two shops in Japan in February 2017; one on Rappongi Hills and one inside Mitsukoshi. We are planning the next outlets at the moment and I hope to see much more – this is just the beginning!

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