Document sits down with collaborative duo Camilla Staerk and Helena Christensen to discuss their upcoming projects and finding inspiration in their Nordic heritage

Brought together by their immaculate style and Danish upbringing, supermodel and photographer Helena Christiansen and designer Camilla Staerk sit down with Document’s Shawn Lakin to discuss their upcoming projects, including a sunglasses line (in collaboration with Pared), a short film exhibition at Milk studios, and a collection of prefabricated homes entitled Revolution Precrafted. For these two best friends, there’s no limit to where a collaboration can lead them.

Shawn Lakin—Where do you start in the collaborative thought process when you are tackling a project such as the Revolution Precrafted home?

Helena Christensen—We usually drive upstate to the mountains, and on the drive we begin brainstorming about a creative project and then we work on the key elements and details over the next few days. The finishing part of our process is sketching out the final designs and making them come alive.

Camilla Staerk—For the home in particular, we remember our immediate exchange was; we want to somehow translate and apply our bird in flight signature design feature (as always) to a wing like roof shape. Because we instinctively, and perhaps subconsciously, always honor our Nordic heritage, we draw much of our inspiration from the traditional Scandinavian cabin home in terms of feel, mood, and material. Since the cabin is a wooden construction, the beautiful, yet functional shape of a viking ship came to our minds. We grew up learning about the details of this ship of our ancestors, and the visits to the viking ship museum in Denmark back then is something that has left such a remarkable impression on us both. We decided to integrate the organic shape of the hull of a viking ship into our cabin.

Shawn—Where does your mutual Nordic heritage come into play?

Camilla—It is just there, deeply engraved in us both. It manifests itself in everything we do, in the way we think, act, and feel, subconsciously. Thus we know it is always in play somehow, but it is in play combined with our individual impressions and influences from living abroad for a long time as well. We hope to combine all these with our Nordic heritage and end up with an interesting result in our designs.

Shawn—Do you have other Nordic designers you both have found mutual admiration for?

Camilla—The furniture legends Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjaerholm, Finn Juhl, and Ole Wanscher are at the top of my list.

Helena—Same here, along with Kaare Klint, plus I’m also very inspired by the work of Hilma af Klimt, Tove Jansson, and Carl Larsson.

Camilla—The framework we decided to work within for our short films, created with the Velem team at Milk and our amazing collaborators, were these constellations: darkness and light, poetic and erotic, love and solitude. It feels like a direct way into our universe. If you were to add any constellations or single words to describe this universe of ours, what would they be?

Helena—Scandinavian melancholy visualized.

Camilla—I agree. That melancholy within us is in everything we create and in everything we are attracted to.

Helena—Yeah, maybe we should tone down on the melancholy a bit. [Laughs] Danes just love all that dark shit, as long as it’s hygge.

Camilla—What do you like most about our film making process so far?

Helena—It’s a very organic process. It comes from our hearts and minds and is a fluid visual conversation between us. We push each other’s artistic buttons and create from that perspective. It’s just lovely to work with a friend and someone you admire so much.

Danish design duo Camilla Staerk and Helena Christensen define Scandinavian style
Danish design duo Camilla Staerk and Helena Christensen define Scandinavian style

Left: Helena Christensen photographed in New York. Right: Camilla Staerk photographed in New York. Photography by Thomas Giddings for Document.

Camilla—Yes it truly is. It is one of my all time highs to do this project together. It pushes our passion for storytelling to a new domain and I love every single step of the process. It’s also such a pleasure to work with the Velem team at Milk and the incredible talent there. From shoot stage through to the edit and post-production, the whole process with them is such an amazing learning experience. I think the freedom of this film piece we are creating also sums it all up for us; as you say, it comes from our hearts, as with everything we do and it is simply about telling a story of dreams; our dreams and the dreams of people dear to us. It is a celebration of collaboration. We find strength and joy in our own collaboration and this is an extension of that. What is better than creating with talented special friends who you admire and get inspired by? It is heaven.

Helena—Yes we are very lucky to have the possibility, and as you say, the freedom of this project.

Camilla—What do you like most about our work process in general, in all the different creative projects that we do? Is there a certain stage, moment or exchange that maybe repeats in our work process that you feel captures our special and inspired collaboration?

Helena—I feel it’s all connected. There’s a red thread going through it all, subconsciously stemming from our childhoods and Danish upbringing. Our mutual love for our birth country and Danish designers through the times, plus our love of nature and anything aesthetically pleasing kind of sets the tone for any work or art we create.

Camilla—Totally. All the components in our mutual creative expression are very clear in everything we do. It is just there, and our work process is a flow. Also, all the different things we work on or have worked on before, regardless of category, always inform and feed into each other. I have always admired your art, which is so unique to you. It is an amazing process to go through, translating part of what we each do into this collaborative voice. We are, in our aesthetic languages, very different and very similar all the same. In a few words how would you describe how this then works?

Helena—We’re two circles that are connected, and that connected part is wherein everything comes together. I feel, in a strange way, that our collaboration is a nice little example on how you can be very different and work towards the same goals by being open towards new ideas and changing your perspective. Mutual admiration also plays a big part. We shake each others bags, as we say in Denmark. I guess we rattle each other’s minds.

Camilla—Indeed! The unexpected is always exciting, driving things forward with an openness in the process, towards the final precise result within our aesthetic universe. Our respective backgrounds in the fashion and art worlds are different. What do you think you most take with you from your experience and history in your profession going forward from here?

Helena—It’s kind of cool that we come from the same background, but from two different perspectives of the business. I was and am hugely inspired by all the talented and creative people I have worked with on my end. I feel I was in a photography academy for all those years, and I think and hope I subconsciously absorbed a lot of knowledge and inspiration when it comes to design and architecture.

Camilla—Yes, and I think for me, my continued tools for going forward are of course my trained background as a designer (a bachelor’s degree in fashion and textiles) in London, but also those years in London following, where I started my fashion brand. Studying and getting the opportunity to start the brand in London, by the huge support I was met with from the industry and from sponsorship initiatives like Fashion East and NewGen. Becoming part of the system immediately out of college really pushed me creatively, and it gave me the courage to truly find and expose my voice, and I am grateful for that.

The design duo have a busy 2018, with multiple launches set to happen. Amongst them is ‘In My Dream Last Night’ – a short film exhibition launch. They are then set to launch sunglasses ‘Stærk&Christensen + Pared’, a shoe line and a home décor line. An e-commerce platform will launch in March which will present their products and ongoing projects. The two have also created a home and a gym, spa, community pavilion for Revolution Pre-Crafted.