According to Alexandra Helminger, assistant director of the BFA Fashion Design program, studying fashion in Paris is about more than gaining knowledge and experience. It's also about drawing on the creative legacy and skill of masters in one of the world’s great fashion capitals and asking big questions about the industry.
Having trained in Belgium and worked at fashion houses including Lanvin, Helminger is well positioned to help Fashion Design students do just that. She explains that students are encouraged to engage with the archives of local fashion houses to enhance their design work. “We try to connect the content of our program, and even projects that we work on, with the history of what the city offers,” she says. “Here you learn to respect the work and draw on heritage methods for your own design process.”
Helminger developed her design practice in several European fashion capitals. She completed both bachelor’s and master’s fashion degrees at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. As a student, she particularly enjoyed experimenting with volume and proportions, exploring their effect on perceptions of the body and space. Her master’s collection was included in the Museum für angewandte Kunst’s Festival for Fashion and Photography in Vienna.
Early in her career, Helminger completed internships at several small fashion houses in Belgium and Austria. She even tried her hand at designing costumes for the theater in Germany. This experience deepened her knowledge of the industry, which she now shares daily with her students.
When Helminger moved to Paris in 2014, she began working at the luxury fashion house Lanvin, where she served as a design assistant to the creative director, Alber Elbaz. After several years, Helminger joined the Parsons Paris faculty. She had always wanted to teach and was thrilled when the opportunity presented itself. Today Helminger is the assistant director of the BFA Fashion Design program.
In the classroom, Helminger opts for an individualized approach. Whether a student is interested in luxury, streetwear, or fashion as art, she helps identify their strengths and offers them encouragement to experiment further. At the end of the day, her goal is to have students enter the workforce ready to ask big questions. “I hope that when students leave Parsons, they are motivated, curious, and courageous,” says Helminger. “I hope they reflect on themselves as well as the industry. They can’t change the whole world at once, but they can be critical of the whole process and of themselves within it.”