Informa’s Kelly Helfman Brings Maximalism to Both Her Style and Work
There are people who work in fashion doing their own thing, and there are others whose job is to know what everyone else is doing. As president of Informa Markets Fashion, Kelly Helfman knows every brand and trend intimately, but it has only helped strengthen her own maximalist style, which, thanks to her Instagram account, is admired by colleagues throughout the industry.
The California Apparel News caught up with the busy executive to discover the secrets to her style and deft managing of that critical work-life balance.
CAN: Let’s start with the most important matter: “Barbie.” With this new fashion film currently in theaters, we’re wondering if you have a favorite style film that made a lasting impression on you?
KH: The TV show “Sex and the City.” All those outfits by costume designer Patricia Field were just magical. I’m a maximalist. I like colors and accessorizing, and I think the show was the ultimate archive for me in terms of what you can do and how you can style things, from business all the way to quirky and fun. It changed my life.
CAN: How so?
KH: Just how you can express yourself through fashion and play with prints and pieces, including lingerie and sleepwear. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character had so much play and showed that there are no rules when it comes to fashion. My mom owned a vintage-clothing store, so I grew up thrifting, and it was always about putting together unexpected pieces.
CAN: Does this still hold for the present generation of young women?
KH: They have a sense of beauty, but it’s very different from what it looked like for us at that age. They’re not looking to Audrey Hepburn or Sarah Jessica Parker, they’re looking at Billie Eilish and that relaxed, not-a-lot-of-effort. That’s the trend, like, “I don’t brush my hair when I get out of bed.” My daugher is 14 and puts on henna freckles—that’s her effort. She looked at the show “Emily in Paris” and thought it was gross while I think it’s amazing.
CAN: What inspires you these days when you go out for work or pleasure?
KH: I mix high and low, new and vintage, with no rules when it comes to brands. I go to the Rose Bowl once a month as my spiritual sanctuary. I love finding a one-of-a-kind outfit from the ’70s I can wear to work with a brand-new Bottega Veneta heel or a Steve Madden boot at an accessible price. Because I’m a maximalist, I’m loving Simon Miller, Staud and Nanushka—those are some of the hot contemporary brands.
CAN: Since at work you’re exposed to practically every brand and trend that exists, how do you remain yourself and not be overwhelmed with possibilities and inspiration?
KH: You have to be a stylist. I take it all in and appreciate what everyone is doing with their own collection, but I would never do anything that doesn’t feel authentic to me, even if someone wants me to wear something.
CAN: What do you enjoy most about your work, and what is the most challenging for you?
KH: I love being a leader, helping people and learning from them. The most difficult is probably my perfectionism and never wanting to let people down. And whether that’s hitting a revenue goal for the year for Informa or putting on a great event that provides value for customers, I want to make sure that people who spend their hard-earned money to take a booth with us meet the right stores and see the return on investment. That’s what keeps me up at night: making sure I have the best events and don’t let people down and am moving the industry in a positive way. And to change and constantly evolve and keep up with the industry is difficult. But that’s also what I love most about the job: We can’t rinse and repeat.
CAN: It sounds like the enjoyment and the challenge are one and the same, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. You pull the best of yourself out of yourself.
KH: That’s right. It’s like a marriage. The quality your partner likes about you the most is also what they hate about you the most! It’s like, “You’re so outgoing,” and then, “but you’re not giving enough to me!” That’s life—your best and your worst combined.
CAN: Speaking of life, do you have any special routines that see you through each day?
KH: I have a lot, and since I took over the fashion business in 2020 I’ve gotten a lot better at these self-care rituals in order to serve the company the best. My day is filled with them. I can’t give what I can give without taking care of myself, so I’m number one. I block out time throughout the day to take a walk in the sunshine or drink some water and take vitamins, and it’s non-negotiable. Only one or two people can get to me during that time. End of story: Can’t take that away from me, and this has contributed to my success.