Helen Storey

Elizabeth Glendinning

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA239

After graduating from Kingston Polytechnic with a degree in fashion in 1981, Helen Storey began her career as an artist and fashion designer; she subsequently set up the Helen Storey Foundation and gained recognition as a scientist through projects to promote the partnership between science and art.

Growing up in Belsize Park, London with her sister, Kate, with whom she would collaborate on the first of her scientific projects, Storey’s father was David Storey (1933–), the prizewinning author of This Sporting Life (1960). She spent her teenage years visiting the store of the cult label Biba, on Kensington High Street, and had an affiliation with design and the female body from a young age. (Storey’s major concerns, when approaching her collections, have been women’s roles in society and addressing the preconceptions of what they “should be,” or are expected to be, wearing.)

Following her education, Storey spent three years living in Rome working initially for Valentino and then Pino Lancetti, whose more intimate company and art-inspired textiles she admired. When she returned to London, she worked with the couture house Belville Sassoon, designing collections from their store in Knightsbridge, before launching her own label, Amalgamated Talent, with Caroline Coates in 1983. Storey’s collections from the late 1980s and early 1990s won her acclaim for questioning the notion of glamour and women’s imagery with a “gritty realism” that attracted fans such as Cher and Madonna. In 1990 Storey won the British Fashion Awards’ title of Most Innovative Designer of the Year for a provocative collection inspired by the birth of her son, Luke, and society’s vision of the “ideal” woman: “nappy mother by morning, a shoulder pad woman by day, and a lover and sex goddess by night.”

Storey had London boutiques in St. Christopher’s Place, King’s Road, and Newburgh Street. In 1994 the publication Helen Storey: 10 Years celebrated her career in fashion to that point. Storey closed the company in 1995. In 1996 she wrote her biography, Fighting Fashion, which chronicles her early life and career progression up to this point.

She followed this with a collaboration with her biologist sister, Kate—the “Primitive Streak” project and exhibition (1997)—through the Wellcome Trust’s “Sci/Art” initiative. Further explorations were made possible by the Helen Storey Foundation, a not-for-profit arts organization that she established with Caroline Coates in 1999. Working with scientists and conducting her own research led to “Mental” (2001) and “Eye and I” (2005–2006), exploring human interaction.

Storey was awarded an honorary professorship at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh in 2001 and at King’s College, London, in 2003. She was also made a visiting lecturer on material chemistry at Sheffield University in 2006. In the early twenty-first century, Storey continues to live and work between London and Sheffield. Her current work explores the links between art, fashion, and science.

Helen Storey, Fall/Winter 1993. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Brampton Sally , ed. Helen Storey: Ten Years . Southend : White Dove Press, 1994.

Helen Storey Foundation. Web site. http://www.helenstoreyfoundation.org/ (accessed May 2013).

Find in Library Hemmings Jessica. ““Grown Fashion: Animal, Vegtable or Plastic?”” Fashion Theory 6, no. 3 (2003): 262–273 .

Find in Library Loschek Ingrid. When Clothes Become Fashion: Design And Innovation Systems . Oxford : Berg, 2009.

Find in Library Storey Helen. Fighting Fashion . London : Faber & Faber, 1996.