Photo credit Tord-Erik Andresen
Interview

Helene Westbye

11.11.13

Helene Westbye is a Norwegian shoe designer who launched her eponymous line in 2010. Westbye’s crisp silhouettes and innovative designs quickly became crowd-pleasers in her home country of Norway. Earlier this year, Westbye’s designs made their stateside debut on the runway of Nina Skarra’s Fall/Winter 2013 show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.

Interview

When did you launch your line?

I launched my shoe line in 2010.

What is your design background?

I went to the French fashion school L├Ęcole Esmod, which is also based in Oslo. After that I moved to Italy, working with accessories for Italian fashion houses. It was during my years in Italy I found my passion for designing shoes.

At what point in your life did you decide you don’t like to follow the rules?

I’ve always been a person who likes to go my own way and not follow the rules set by others. So I guess from the age of 6!

Do you apply that logic to your design aesthetic?

I definitely apply that to my design. When I design, I like to think outside of the box and use materials and develop techniques that don’t normally follow the rules of shoemaking.

What boundaries that you’ve broken in the shoe industry?

When I founded my shoe brand in 2010, it was the first high fashion Norwegian shoe brand in Norway. I think people were a bit skeptical at first, as there was no history or references to Norwegian shoe design. But after three years of hard work, I feel both the stores and customers are more open to high fashion Norwegian shoes.

How has your brand evolved since you launched?

Since the launch in 2010, my collection is now sold to 25 stores in Norway and has become a well-known brand in the Norwegian fashion media. My first collection back in 2010 was quite small with mostly high heels and showpieces. Over the years the commercial part of the collection has grown bigger and boots are actually the major part of my sales market today. The showpiece part of the collection is still what I consider the most fun, but the commercial part is what makes my brand evolve every season.

What is the Norwegian fashion community like?

The Norwegian fashion community used to be quite small, but has definitely grown bigger over the past years. There is not a lot of history regarding Norwegian fashion, but today, strong Norwegian brands are evolving, making it both nationally and internationally and creating a new stepping-stone for the Norwegian fashion community.

What is unique about your process and product that will interest the US market? How can your US customers get a pair?

As the market is full of extremely high heels and so on, I’m developing products that I see there is a need for in the market today. I’m focusing on rock ‘n’ roll boots with a chic feminine twist, developed to suit all women’s feet.

For US customers, my shoes are available on my online store: www.helenewestbye.com

What is the next major stepping stone you hope to take in your business?

My next major stepping-stone is entering the US market. The New York based showroom, Wave Atelier will be representing and showing my collection to the American market, so I’m very exited to see what the future holds!

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