“I wasn’t one of those people who knew I always wanted to be a designer. I always loved clothes, and the idea of fashion from a young age; my mother is superbly glamorous and had great style,” tells us Michael Halpern, founder of the eponymous brand Halpern.
“I loved fashion magazines, and listening to my mother and her friends talk about what life was like in the 1970s of New York, it was a really formative time for me. It was after my first year of University at Parsons in NYC that I decided to go into Fashion Design. I originally thought I wanted to be a sculptor because I love working with my hands, but soon found out for myself there wasn’t enough expression that I wanted to express,” he continues.
After University, he decided to embark on a new journey and was admitted to the Masters programme at Central Saint Martin in London. There, his MA collection quickly gained a lot of attention and led him to accept a job at Atelier Versace. During his time there, he developed his own brand. “The world is and has been quite a scary place for some time now; especially since my first collection went into stores in 2018. What we provide is that moment of freedom from the doom and gloom we sometimes have to wade through; escapism and fantasy are two things that can give someone wearing the clothes this feeling; even just for a moment. Inclusion and diversity are the other two pillars that we at Halpern live and die by; it is woven into the fabric of the world we want to live in,” he explains.
His first collection was a revival of disco glamour, something his mother had been educating him on since he was a little boy. “Although it was a very specific and tight edit; the underlying theme was glamour, fantasy, and joy. These three points are what guide me in the collections [un]till this day. Even though the collections are thematic and have varied references it always must go back to the core pillars of the brand which can be revised, expanded upon and pushed further with every season that comes.”
With every collection, Halpern never fails to start his process from researching. “It is most definitely one of the most exciting times in the design process. Once I land on a direction for the season and really flush that idea out, we begin fabric development and embroidery development whilst I begin draping on the stand and forming the silhouettes. My team and I approach the design process from so many different angles, whether it be fabrics, sketches, ¼ size pin toiles, or full stand draping. It is amazing to witness this faint morsel of an idea in my head and then sometime later after all the development, fittings, embroideries; there is a collection!”
But how has a new and innovative brand like his been dealing with the current crisis? By taking it day by day tells us the designer. “I have been spending part of my time sewing PPE with the NHS here in London, and that has also been something I have truly enjoyed; being able to contribute in some way. When we get through this worldwide crisis, fashion will be different in many ways; but who is to say that it isn’t for the better?” Halper asks.
Although we are living in uncertain times, he believes people and consumers will be much more driven by authenticity and heart, two areas that independent brands like his are not lacking in. “I feel people will still want to feel like they are buying into something special, unique, and with a strong point of view; this is an area I feel independent brands have a huge leg up in,” he concludes.