“The Heliot Emil universe is not linear. We don’t want to only exist where clothing has significance, but where everything interconnects. Now more than ever, connecting with people and offering them a place where they are included is critical,” says Julius Juul, co-founder and creative director of Heliot Emil. From collaborating with artists, directing films, and drawing inspiration from the world of design, Heliot Emil’s refined aesthetic is bolder than ever.
With their Fall/Winter 2020 collection, Amorphous Solid, and recently launched Spring/Summer 2021 collection, Compos Mentis, the brand endlessly challenges the status quo; this time, by showcasing their latest collections using a 360-degree virtual platform. In an era of pandemic, the Danish brand invites all to join in on the ride through this “digital and customizable experience.”
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Tell us about the journey behind Heliot Emil. How did the brand come together?
My brother Victor and I founded Heliot Emil. While I was living in New York, I worked in art direction for Calvin Klein, Hood by Air and Kanye West. Since I come from a creative background, and my brother and I have always been on the same wavelength, we chose to start Heliot Emil as a side project at the time. As time went by, I took over the creative direction of the brand, while my brother took control of the business structure and operations.
To date, it’s definitely been a learning curve for both of us as we keep learning throughout the brand’s growth. We focused a lot on creating a universe that people can get attached to rather than just focusing on particular products or collections. Now that we’ve built this universe, we are focusing on exactly how we want to position everything: from perfecting our tailoring, to constantly developing and introducing new processes. This is something we’ve always wanted to do.
Let’s talk about your Fall/Winter 2020 show, Amorphous Solid. As the collection is presented using an audio and visual presentation on your website, can you tell us what your creative process was behind this approach?
Amorphous Solid is the state between a liquid and a solid, so it’s something that you can morph and adjust to how you want it to be since it compounds during the actual chemical reaction. The theme behind this collection was heavily attached to that as you can morph the garments in many different ways, which is something we wanted to convey in the show.
When you’re using your phone to view the show, you could actually go around this entire space in a 360 motion and you can shape the experience to your preference. For us, it was just about constantly pushing the status quo and evolving our approaches in the most innovative way possible.
Was offering a 3D virtual experience like this something that was adapted to the times we are currently living in?
It’s interesting because we already started doing digital shows pre-pandemic, in July of last year for the Spring/Summer 2020 show. The reason we delved into offering this virtual experience in the first place was that we wanted to challenge the status quo. After doing physical and virtual shows, our team came to notice that the attention our brand receives is very community-based.
For example, we might have someone sitting in Japan or Australia who wants to follow the brand, but they won’t get the full experience of the show if we were simply just doing a live stream from our physical runway. We wanted to give something more intimate to our community around the world, so they can equally feel part of our universe, just like someone who is directly linked to the brand.
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While this collection explores shape-ability in accordance to matter, is there a particular message you wish to convey to your audience through Amorphous Solid? What is the difference between past collections and this one?
We’re trying to head in a direction where we can combine our flair for industrial and tactical details with a more elevated and elegant approach, which is something we’re heavily moving forward with especially in our Spring/Summer 2021 collection. The direction we’re heading in is really where we want to be; this is something we like to call industrial elegance.
In the Fall/Winter 2020 collection, you can see the development of this refined approach through details like hits of tailoring in womenswear, and this will gradually grow from season to season. As much as we’re developing something new, we also want to do this gradually so we can educate our audience and show them where we’re heading.
Form and function are key assets throughout the Heliot Emil universe. Can you explain how you experiment with technology in order to successfully fuse it with your collections?
It’s very interesting to combine something like fashion, which is very form-given, to something functional as well. For instance, I often question how we can manipulate a certain jacket by combining it in different ways to create a new shape. Or, how can we do something within the fabric that can allow people to experiment a little more with wearability. Maybe a product won’t just have one colour, maybe it transcends into another colour, or is layered with something else. It’s interesting to see how we can take elements from the functional world and combine them to fashion’s more form-given structure.
We had a manufacturer that was supplying fabrics for window covers that keep bugs out, so we decided to make bags out of this material. It’s a step-by-step process as we want to hit that middle point where it’s interesting for our current following to see these new developments, while still having the ability to continue educating people, rather than just catering to a very niche audience.
From knitwear and leathers to technical finishes, the use of high-quality materials and detailing is a staple throughout your work. Are there particular materials that are fundamental to the brand’s identity?
Yes. The attention to detail is something we really pry on. Personally, I like doing everything in monochromatic colours because it allows the actual texture and fabric to shine through. I’m also a firm believer that there are fifty shades of black. It’s about finding the elements that stand out in the fabrics.
For example, we developed this fabric called liquid metal, which is a PVC thread that’s been spun into a reflective thread, and it creates this almost 3D-like shape through waves that are present in the fabric. Technical fabrics are a staple for us: fabrics that are heat-reactive or waterproof but breathable are all elements we want to continue developing on. We’re also working on redirecting the brand towards more sustainability, especially in the jersey categories.
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Moving forward from the collections, the brand occasionally showcases its work through installation-based presentations. How did the idea of collaborating with artist August Hugo for your Spring/Summer 2021 collection come about? Do you often draw inspiration from external channels and later apply them to the process behind Heliot Emil?
The Heliot Emil universe is not linear. From film and furniture to the arts, there are multiple things within this universe. We don’t want to only exist where clothing has significance but where everything interconnects. Our universe is more powerful when we showcase something that’s outside of our given category by using our voice within the contemporary and cultural era.
By collaborating with artists and directing films, we’re showing our audience where Heliot Emil is heading culturally. We don’t want to dictate our audience; we want to bring our community along for a ride, a ride that is open for interpretation.
Given these trying times, do you believe that the future of runway shows depends heavily on virtual experiences? Or, do you think the physical runway experience will always be essential in the industry through tradition?
For me, it’s not about one or the other. Right now, I think people believe that it can only be one of the two, but I think we’ll eventually see a split where we aren’t following the traditional schedule as much as we used to. This new direction might not have everything crammed together in one week but rather give the option to experience the physical runway show while having more digital experiences implemented throughout the schedule at the same time. I believe this can build more engagement between the consumer and the brand.
Personally, physical runway shows are incredibly important since the audience can experience the smell, sound and energy physically; where people give their undivided attention to the runway for those ten to fifteen minutes. During the times that we’re living in, it’s much easier to detach from the experience because of other distractions like being on your phone while watching a show digitally. Obviously, there are ups and downs with both virtual and physical channels.
Given the current situation we are facing on a global scale, how do you think the fashion industry can authentically reflect the times we are currently living in?
I think it’s about creating substance and making sure that people connect with you on a different level, rather than just covering what’s expected like a scheduled runway show. We need to be aware that we’re in this moment for an undetermined period, so it’s important that communities get something during this time. Perhaps, offering new and innovative experiences that are different from what we’re used to seeing.
It’s not just about selling products; it’s about connecting with people and offering them a place where they are included, especially in times like these. I believe that brands should cover content beyond their products, and emphasize more on the entire world they are part of.
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As Heliot Emil has a very progressive and thematic presence, how do you hope your audience interacts with the garments given its bold yet minimal aesthetic?
I’m blown away by how people style our collections and how they’re so willing to reach such lengths with something we’ve created. We implement a lot of small functionalities within the garments, so we hope our supporters continue to apply their innovative ideas to our work.
Where do you see the brand heading in years to come? Any major projects set for the future that you can share with us?
Even in a post-pandemic world, we’ll keep focusing on developing the Heliot Emil universe. We’ll begin to experiment with furniture and object creation, create a whole shoe collection for next season, and work on many collaborations. There is a lot on its way; the rings in the water are starting to spread for us.
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