Helen Steele: ‘I left school with crippling shame about my intellectual capabilities’

Life Lessons: Helen Steele, fashion designer

Fashion designer Helen Steele: I am most proud of my children

Fashion designer Helen Steele: I am most proud of my children

 

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your life?

Navigating the educational system with undiagnosed ADHD. I left secondary school with crippling shame about my intellectual capabilities. It was only when I started my degree in fashion design that I realised I actually had a chance to succeed in something. Unfortunately I still see the same thing happening in the education system. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

It’s what you put into it is what you get out of it. That was a weekly quote from our head nun in the secondary school I went to. 

And the worst?

You need to take this case to court. You rarely get justice when you go to court, you just get the law, and an empty pocket.

What’s the moment that changed your life?

Having my daughter Chloe placed in my arms for the first time.

Who do you most admire?

Vivienne Westwood, Anna Cosgrove of the Repeal Project, and Sinéad Burke. 

What is the most pain you’ve ever experienced?

Childbirth.  

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career?

Colour.

What practical thing do you do to help your personal development?

Painting, meditation, and listening to podcasts as I run.

What location do you return to for a sense of calm and time out? 

My studio, the lakes in Monaghan and the sea, and Francis Bacon’s studio in the Hugh Lane / Municipal Art Gallery in Dublin. 

What’s your biggest flaw?

Expensive taste.

And your worst habit?

Butlers chocolate and Nutella.

What aspect of yourself or your behaviour do you privately admire?

How I still see the world in childlike colour.

What personality trait would you anticipate your friends identifying as your most dominant?

Impulsiveness. 

How about an unfulfilled goal you don’t tell anyone about?

To live in the tropics for a year and just paint.

Is there a particular moment in your life where you feel you were treated unfairly?

There have been many, especially as a young mother, and as a woman; being dismissed as stupid, blonde, being man-handled by drunk men old enough to be my grandfather. I could go on and on.

Is there a gift you tend to purchase repeatedly for different people?

Helen James candles from Dunnes Stores. 

What’s the wisest thing you’ve ever heard or read?

“When times are tough, hold on. When times are good, push hard.” I heard it at a Bumble Biz dinner. It was something Marissa Carter said, and I think it could be adapted to so many aspects of life. 

What are you most proud of in your life?

My children, they are the future.

Helen Steele is a fashion designer and an artist taking part in Assemble at St Patrick’s Festival, the first ever group exhibition presented by Atelier Maser in Dublin 2, which brings together seven of the leading names in contemporary Irish art. The exhibition continues until April 3rd.

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