Meet Laura Helms
ON her passion for fashion history
My mother is an art historian so I was always surrounded by a deep respect for and interest in history. I thought that I wanted to be in the arts so I studied photography at NYU’s Tisch, where there was luckily a strong emphasis on photographic history.
Fashion history had always been a passion of mine—something I would spend all my free time voraciously reading about and researching—but after a couple of dead-end jobs in the photo industry I decided to try making it my career. Once I made the decision to apply to grad school suddenly everything started to fall into place—within a few weeks I had an introduction to a curator who took me on as his intern for an exhibition at the Costume Institute and from there it has continued moving forward and gradually evolving.
on her interests
While my master’s degree was in fashion history, my interests are much broader—I’m intrigued by the intersections of the worlds of fashion, art, interior designs, architecture, politics, etc. My archive of thousands of books and magazines covers all of these subjects. I’m always collecting, looking for more, searching out rare magazines in someone’s garage. I post images selected from my archive on my instagram, @laurakitty.
on her path to filmmaking
When I first started writing about Thea Porter in 2010 my parents remarked to me that her life would make a great film. One of my earliest dreams as a pre-teen was to be a screenwriter and filmmaker, but I had gradually pushed it from my mind over the years, just as I pushed aside my parents’ suggestion. Last year I curated a museum exhibition on Thea Porter and her nephew brought a friend of his, an actress and director, to see the show. I had worked very hard to create a sense of total immersion in Thea’s world, through visuals, words, films and music, and this director, Gabrielle Weller, immediately saw the potential to translate this into a movie.
My interest in witchcraft and the occult began when I was a teenager. My personal beliefs centre on the Earth as the Mother, and I believe very strongly in the magical properties of herbs, trees, plants and flowers. My daily magical practice (tarot, ritual, candle and herbal magic) impacts every aspect of my life, and the way I treat others and see the world. I’m part of a coven of amazing women who try to get together on the full or new moons, but lately we’ve all been traveling so much it hasn’t happened.
on project 40
So many magical beauties have come into my life through witchcraft, mostly through synchronicities. I’m now working with two of them on an email immersion program, “Tarot Images and Icons: A 40-Day Journey through Sex, Glamour and Rock n’ Roll”, which starts on the new moon eclipse on March 7th. Sherene, Katelan and I have combined the Major Arcana archetypes with real life icons, and we will help the participants work with these Major Arcana icons to channel the archetypal energies into their own lives through recorded meditations; rituals; journaling that can be applied to both daily life and ongoing understanding of the Tarot arts; self-portraiture work to embody the different archetypes, history, fashion, glamorous images to inspire along the path and much more. It’s the first time I have combined my work as a cultural historian with my spiritual interests—a very exciting and new world for me.
On HER favorite author
Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favourite authors and I am particularly enamored with her short stories. When I was putting together the last issue of my magazine, LADY, I sent her a copy of LADY ZERO and asked if I could reprint one of her stories. She loved the magazine and said I could choose anything I wanted. It’s always amazing when someone you admire loves what you do—she sent me a long email about how much she admired me for taking the leap into print publishing as a young woman.
on her love for fashion
I’ve been interested in fashion history and antique/vintage clothing since I was a little girl— sneaking into my grandmother’s closet was always my favourite part of visiting them as I could quite happily spend hours staring at all the pieces that she had kept from the 1930’s on and fantasizing about where she had worn them. By the time I was 11 or 12 I had started buying vintage from car boot sales and markets in London, and since then I’ve never stopped.
ON shopping and style
My closet is 99.9% vintage, and most of that is from 1967-1977—my absolute dream decade as it covers the hippie movement, all of the most fantastical revival styles (Medieval, Renaissance, Orientalism, Prairie, etc.), classic American sportswear and up to disco glamour. I like clothes that lend themselves to a story—dreamlike and of another time. Most has been bought on eBay though I sometimes buy from auction, from dealers or from flea markets; I’m pretty open to looking wherever, but my heart lies with eBay.
on her skincare routine
My skin is quite dry so I only use natural and very healing products, though I’m still working on shifting my makeup completely that way. In Fiore’s products are pretty much the apotheosis of luxury natural skincare—made from the finest flower essences and oils. I wash my face with their Treate Gentle Cleansing Emulsion, then massage in their Complexe De Fleur Cellular Renewal and Fleur Vibrante Face Balm Concentre/Healing Floral Essence. If I have some hormonal inflammation I will add a few drops of the Comfrey Solution Botanique to the complex. My friend Taylor just started a line of oils and salts, Heaven on Main Street (she also makes insanely delicious vegan baked goods!), so I just started using her face oils as well. I try to exfoliate with JustBe’s daily cleanser at least once a week—Negin makes the edible cleanser from almonds and walnuts, and she’s also my go to for facials in NYC. I wear Serge Lutens ‘Chergui’ every day mixed with different magical oils.
on her makeup routine
I adore makeup but I rarely change it up—always a cat eye (Make Up For Ever Aqua Black Waterproof Cream Eye Shadow with a slanted brush), lightly flushed cheeks (NARS ‘Gina’ blush), and lip gloss (at the moment I am weirdly obsessed with Maybelline Sensational Color Elixir Lip Lacquer Lip Gloss). I was styling a film last year and the manicurist used this nail polish (Zoya’s ‘Mia’) on the model—I spent the whole day staring at her nails and ordered it on Amazon Prime that day. Since then I almost always have it on my nails. I also use Laura Mercier's Tinted Moisturizer.
laura's favorite books
laura's favorite records
laura's favorite places
Bar: Even though I no longer live upstairs, Park Luncheonette will forever be my ‘Cheers’.
After a bad accident three years ago left me in a wheelchair and unable to walk I started taking private Pilates lessons with Karen Lord—not only has she become one of my closest friends but also I totally owe being able to run and wear heels to her. I still go to her studio, Karen Lord Pilates Movement, for privates once a week and try to fit in some advanced classes in when I can.
CAP Beauty in the West Village is a total heaven of natural beauty products, and they also put on really fantastic talks most weeks that cover everything from astrology to hormones to spirit animals and crystal healing.