Helle Høgsbro Krag

Designer, stylist and decorator

KOKOON Portraits # 18


50-year-old Helle Høgsbro always knew, what she wanted. At school, she often frequented the arts and crafts room instead of attending classes, and at nineteen she was accepted to the School of Design and was trained as a designer. Now she refers to herself as ‘a removal man with good taste’, when she designs window displays and decorations – among others for Holly Golightly in the heart of Copenhagen.


What does a typical work day look like?

When you are self-employed like me and do, what I do, you work 24-7. The days go by with meetings and collecting stuff. My work schedule varies tremendously. For an example, I was recently engaged as a costumer on the latest film by Lone Scherfig where work days accumulated to 22 hours a day. There was literally no time for sleep. During fashion week I work all the time. Here, I really get to move a lot of stuff, decorate windows and create unique universes for events. The last one was an entire ferry.


What inspires you?

I am sucker for materials. I think, that’s why I used to design children’s wear (by the name Crème de la crème à la Edgar, sold at her shop with the same name, ed.). Forget about itchy hems or annoying care labels – it had to feel wonderful to wear. A fun fact about the shop is that the clientele was all sort of types and age groups. I think, that the fine qualities, a somewhat old-fashioned universe filled with colours and humour is a part of the reason. It had this 1970s felling, where things felt freer. Colours are also very essential to me. Whenever I style and design a window display, I am aware to integrate a faulty colour. Something that’s kind of off. That’s also how I dress. Recently I was meeting Gilbert (Helle’s son, ed.) for breakfast. Prior, I was on the phone with him and he said: “Please don’t embarrass me and show up looking like Jytte Abildstrøm (eccentric Danish actress, ed.). I glanced down at myself. I was wearing pink jeans, really cool, but pink… and a subtle rose-coloured fringe shirt with our poodle Pondus in the bicycle carrier. I was 100% channelling Jytte Abildstrøm.


What turning points have helped define who you are today?

I was really bored at school. Consequently, I was sometimes allowed to spend the maths class in the school’s arts and crafts apartment, where I would make a theatre curtain or whatever the school needed. Then in seventh grade we got a new Danish teacher named Annelise Rud. She looked like she just stepped of the set of Dallas or Dynasty with big boobs, light blue eye shadow and backcombed hair. She had this silver fox, you could secretly touch, when you went up to her desk for help. When I meet her, school became somewhat more interesting to me. I always knew, what I wanted. Once I realized, I couldn’t become a midwife, I knew, I wanted to design clothes. At 19 years old, I was accepted to The Royal Danish Academy of Design. But already by the end of tenth grade, I got an apprenticeship at Pia Hedegaard, who ran Blå Form in the center of Copenhagen. All the money I earned went to pay for drawing classes. I moved away from home at the age of 16 and moved in together with a man nine years my age. Today this sounds utterly insane. My mother liked him, and he could pick me up from parties. It was a different time back then. In some ways our parent’s generation was better at setting us free.


What’s most important to you?

If you ask my kids, they will answer our dog, Pondus. I am known to say, I love him more than Jonas (Helle’s husband, ed.) But of course, that’s not true at all. My children and Jonas mean the world to me. When the kids were little, they took up all my time, but as they have grown older and gotten their own lives, there’s now time for Jonas and me again. When the kids were smaller, I sometimes felt like eloping to Mallorca. But then I would remember, that he is the one who will cherish the day they get married or get kids of their own. That’s the things that matters in life. In that sense, I am somewhat old-fashioned.


When do you feel most challenged?

Wow… modern technology can be tricky. I just got a new iPhone, because the last one was stolen. My heart starts pounding like when I had to write an essay at school.


What tends to annoy you?

One day, Betty (Helle’s daughter, ed.) and I enjoyed a burger at Gasoline Grill. Next to us where three young girls waiting for their take away order. One lighted a cigarette and the smoke came directly our way and she began to uncover how she had vomited all night long – she even described what the bucket looked like. Yes, I know, that I sound like an old lady, but I really think, you need to show each other more respect. No one say they are sorry, when they bump into you and no one gets up for the old lady in the bus. I can’t have it. We could learn something from Japan, where you never would pick up the phone and disturb others in public places. There you respect people, you don’t know, and you don’t have the urge to include others in your private sphere.


Are you easily touched?

I am touched by the strangest things. For an example, I am moved by people, who excel at sports. And I am by no means a great athlete myself. But when people train an entire life and they succeed. All the parties they have missed, and they finally win. That’s really well-deserved.


Being a woman, what does that mean to you?

I have always loved being a woman. I am crazy about the female body. I wish my breasts were double the size.


What does love mean to you?

At a younger age, I had a difficult time, when people called each other honey and things like that. It gave me the creeps. I didn´t grow up saying things like that out loud. I never questioned the love of my parents and I have always felt loved. We just never used those words. My parent’s generation felt that saying those things was somewhat American, kind of superficial. When it comes to my own children, I have always been aware that kisses and cuddles aren’t enough, you shouldn’t be afraid to say it out loud. My children’s generation don’t hold back. Betty says it all the time, she just blurts out: “See you later. I love you.”


In New York working for the girls from Saks Potts Favourite burger at Gasoline Grill

We got a dinner club with three couples. Altogether we’re 15 children and parents who meet a week day and have dinner. Here, it had been a long time, so one of the fathers had made a sign saying, “The dinner club is alive” Betty and I putting up pictures in her room. It’s a wall-to-wall carpet from Ege tæpper

Soft on soft. Pop up shop at Tullinsgade on a rug I found at a flea market in Malaga and carried home in my hand luggage Betty and her friend Anemone on the canals of Amsterdam

Columns for a decoration assignment At Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle outside Amsterdam. A fantastic museum exhibiting some crazy stuff. The top has an extension that looks like an alien laid a giant egg

In Paris for the interior design exhibition Maison et Objet, MOM, wearing white pants Window display for Holly Golightly – the wallpaper is from Tapet-Café