RedValentino goes green with Timo Helgert for Pre-Spring 2021
TIMO Helgert is starting to become a phenomenon in the fashion and art spheres. Born in Germany, the visual artist went viral in 2020 for his The Return of Nature series. The graphics capture deserted city landscapes covered in nature as the planet regenerates after the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he’s collaborated with Valentino’s sister label REDValentino on their upcoming Pre-spring ‘21 campaign.
The concept is simple – nature is taking over again. Helgert is famous for his virtual installations that merge urban landscapes with nature. It’s difficult if not impossible in this day and age to ignore the power of our environment and REDValentino ran with the concept and brought it to mainstream audiences.
Glass caught up with Helgert on his distinctive trademark and why REDValentino was the perfect medium to push the boundaries even further.
First off – how did you get into virtual installations? I have a background in creating visual effects and art. Pair it with a passion for new technologies, such as 3D scanning and AR, and you’ve got the recipe for creating virtual installations.
What was the most important aspect of today’s society that you wanted to showcase in your work for REDValentino? The focus of my series is to show a world that is in balance with nature. A place where we don’t think in either white or black; city or nature. I believe our world makes it hard to see everything as a whole. We think of nature in terms of ‘parks’ which is a secluded space in a city that allows a little bit of “controlled” nature. So, I started wondering what a city would look like if both sides were equally respected and fully blooming. It’s not one or the other – it’s the best of both. Waiting for us, while we are in lockdown.
What part did nature play in your day-to-day life during the pandemic? I live in southern Germany, very close to Italy and when the pandemic reached the Italian regions, everyone was broadcasting about it. I also have friends who told me how their day to day life was affected. So I asked myself – how can I, as an artist, do something different, compared to all the fear that’s been created?
And this is why I created the series The Return Of Nature. I think that’s exactly why it went viral. We never notice what we miss, until it’s been taken away. And during this time, we couldn’t experience nature at all, so creating escapist environments, to take our minds to beautiful worlds, was the missing element during this time.
There is a lot of symbolism in your work. Can you talk us through some of the essential elements?
I love contrast. Growing up in a small German village, surrounded by forests, with no cinemas, but clean air and beautiful nature, was always something I took for granted.
Everyone in my village thought it was normal. I only started to truly miss and think about it when I moved to Seoul, in South Korea, a megacity where a blue sky is celebrated because it’s so rare. And this is where my mind truly started to explore. What is the connection between urban places and nature? Why do we need to have a black and white thinking? What would the world look like if we had balance? And through my art, I want to explore this connection in several ways. My goal is to create this unique perspective, where we don’t take everyday objects for granted but appreciate them like expensive art.
What was your creative concept when first approached by REDValentino?
My previous series inspired the collaboration, but it was my goal to do more with it and to extend it. While the original didn’t use any humans in the artworks, I wanted to make a shift and explore further so that we can project our emotions onto someone.
Was the shift in aesthetic intentional?
The original series showed empty cities because it was something shocking. I added human beings in these bare environments as the cherry on top. I think it’s beautiful and that it added to the art. It added connection and emotion because we had someone who had feelings. The model in the environment is someone we can relate to. You could almost say that it’s the missing element. It’s us and how we stand in a balanced world.
What do we need to know about the new REDValentino girl? I would describe her as freedom. And this word has a variety of meanings – freedom of expression, of choice, of exploration. She is strong and independent, with her unique taste, in a fast and changing world. By being unique and free, she can choose who she wants to be.
How do you perceive the post-pandemic world in terms of cultural shifts? I don’t think it’s over yet and it is still changing quite a bit, at least here in Europe. But in terms of technological and cultural change, I must say that it accelerated everything by a decade. I am a huge fan of virtual reality, but especially augmented reality and its possibilities in the future. We often see art as something clearly defined, with clear rules, but if you think deeper, what is art?
People in the past used paint to express themselves, but imagine if a mind like Leonardo da Vinci was born in today’s world. Would he still use paint? Or would he use the newly available tools, like Augmented Reality, 3D simulation and AI? I think that art is genuinely just a form of expressing our emotion and our dreams and needs. I believe that in the future, with better technology and better tools, we will soon see artworks beyond our current understanding, and it will be very inspiring.
How can we make the world a better place through art and fashion? For me, art and fashion both tell stories in their unique ways. They’re a medium that many creative people can use to transmit a message of hope and excitement – for a clean, positive future of our beautiful planet. I hope it inspires us all to think broader and to see cityscapes, nature, environments and everything as an interconnected system.
I am passionate about Japanese culture and there was one translation about the connection between “man-made” and “nature”. They were questioning “dirt”. What is it? It’s the elements of nature meeting our perfect man-made structures. In our current time, we try to separate them so much.
We cut the grass and the trees, we try to have perfect white walls, and everything has to be shiny. Which also creates a sense of stress and anxiety. I hope we can find a way to meet in the middle. I think the garden is a great example. If you let it overgrow too much and nature is out of balance, it looks too wild. But if you try to control it too much, you almost end up with a zen-inspired stone garden. It can quickly feel cold and empty. I think it’s essential that we find balance. We need to be mindful about our surroundings and not selfish.