Meet Isabell Yalda Hellysaz, the Woman Behind Lady Gaga’s ‘ARTPOP’ Mask


Meet Isabell Yalda Hellysaz, the Woman Behind Lady Gaga’s ‘ARTPOP’ Mask

"Antidote" AW12 / 13 Collection - Image © Hill & Aubrey, Tim Hill, James Finning assisted by Anthony John Sayer
Lady Gaga for "Artpop" Shoot - Image © Inez & Vinoodh
"Remedy" SS14 Collection - Image © Pavel Maira

Lady Gaga morphing into a mutant motorbike on the cover of Born This Way was alright if you’re into mechanophilia, but what we’re feeling is the cover of her latest album, ARTPOP, where the singer sports a futuristic welding (or is it ski?) mask, in a photo by Inez and Vinoodh. The white-edged clear perspex is the creation of Swedish designer Isabell Yalda Hellysaz, who showcased the avant garde accessory in her AW12 catwalk show, Antidote. Plugging into the future is Hellysaz’s core design ethos, exploring the contrast of gender, with masculine shapes and feminine fabrics forming her design methods, usually on an androgynous silhouette. She elevates the unconventional and makes it wearable, with an aesthetic built on craftsmanship, experimental cuts, and innovative construction.

For the AW12 and SS14 collections, her designs reference German WWII military uniform and Pierre Cardin-esque space-age elements, along with material mobility. I spoke with the lady behind the mask about her vision of the future.

What does futurism mean to you?
When I think of futurism I think fresh, unusual, but yet very simple.

How would you like to see the future evolve in relation to fashion?
I really would like to see companies start taking responsibility. All we do is want more and more. I think we all need to take a minute and ask ourselves about the negative impact this has on us and the planet. We are trying to create a simple lifestyle for ourselves, but somehow everything has become so complicated. There will always be a limit for everything. The question is where will this process lead us in the future?

Is your take on fashion is quite philosophical then?
Maybe. I have thought about it in that concept. Maybe subconsciously that’s what I do.

Where do you draw most of your ideas from?
It’s hard to say! It can start with anything: an image, a song, a documentary, a person on the street, an article, or maybe even a dream. I can’t really say that one particular thing inspires me. The inspiration is everywhere around me, and it’s just a matter of when I pick it up and start using it.

What was the idea behind the Antidote collection and visor, and why does that accessory also appear in your SS14 collection?
I wanted all the models to be covered from head to toe like they were protected from all of the controversial propaganda around us. I started with looking into war propaganda and the effect it had on us. At the same time I realised that we are also under constant bombardment within the fashion media about how to look and what trends to follow. These two elements were the start of the research, and then the ’60s and space age inspired the actual design and feel of the collection.

For the SS14 Remedy collection, I still have a lot of inspiration left from Antidote, and thinking about it, I wasn’t ready to let it pass, which is why there are now references to German WWII uniform, and the protective mask/visor still appears.

How did you feel when you heard that Lady Gaga wanted to wear the visor?
Well it was a very odd situation. We had sent her some stuff but not for what it turned out to be. So it was very shocking, but a nice surprise for everyone!

Do you think Gaga could be a muse for your work, or do you have a specific female in mind who fits your brand aesthetic?
Maybe Gaga will be a part of it, but I would not single her out as the only muse. I have never designed anything with a specific muse in mind. I don’t really like to put my brand into a ‘stereotypical girl’ box. First of all, I keep myself in mind, and as I am designing for women, if I can’t wear something I create, then how can I expect others to buy it? So far the response has been great. We have had everything from 18-year-old girls to 50-something women showing interest in the garments.

Are you working with specific fabrics or do you have a particular design process?
The majority of the material has been recycled, therefore many of the pieces have been individually made so far. For Antidote, I tried to create my own unique fabric and I think that’s definitely something I would like to go back and try in the future. At least once my budget allows me to!

How do you plan to develop the brand, image-wise and business-wise?
I am still in the early stages of setting up the brand and in the process of building up ideas, finalizing how I would like to move forward. There are many things I want to do, but the main focus right now is to get more of my products out there in the market.

How do you spend your time when you’re not designing?
I don’t have much free time these days. Sometimes I read a book. I like to spend time with family and friends, or going to a exhibition. I really would like to have more free time to do more things.

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