Art of Science; She Used to Be One of the UK's Top Fashion Designers, but Now Helen Storey Is Using Frocks to Bring Science to the Masses Via a New Exhibition Which Goes on Show in Wolverhampton. Caroline Foulkes Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: Caroline Foulkes

Fashion is a strange thing. One day you're in, the next you're out.

See that skirt you bought last week? Don't even think about wearing it. It's, like, sooooo last season. If you told some people that wearing a shoe on their head was a style statement, they'd do it. And the designers, well, they play on that.

Take Helen Storey's latest collection, entitled Mental. It's pretty much unwearable. But that's just the way she likes it.

Between 1984 and 1995, Helen, now 43, ran a highly successful, award winning fashion business. She even wrote a book about it.

Then her husband, the company's finance director, became ill with cancer.

The company went through what Helen describes as 'a series of meetings with lots of wise men with no money and lots of people with money but no sense' before they finally called it a day and went into receivership.

Helen had vague ideas about what she wanted to do next, but she never thought it would involve the subject she'd hated most at school - science.

'Out of the blue my sister Kate, who is a developmental biologist, was sent a leaflet from the Wellcome Trust about a Science and Art initiative aimed at getting scientists and artists together to see if they could come up with a body of work that would grab the public's imagination and make science more accessible.'

Between them, Helen and Kate came up with a concept to chart the first 1,000 hours of life through textiles and fashion.

The result was Primitive Streak, a series of dresses designed to represent the first 3-D structures within the embryo that defines its head and tail axis, the line of the body. It proved to be an extraordinary success, going on show in 13 countries.

'Discovering I could impart knowledge was something new and very exciting,' said Helen.

Yet it wasn't all plain sailing. Although Helen found it easy to work with her sister, trying to establish a common ground where art and fashion and science could meet wasn't.

'We both had different expectations of what each other's worlds of work were like,' says Helen. 'She thought mine was trivial and I thought hers was rather complicated.

'I had to learn how to understand academic stuff, while Kate had to develop a way of explaining things so they could be understood in a non-scientific way. …