Closets@Brown: Helen Gerstenfeld Abreu

December 5, 2016

Interview by Clarice Brough and Adam Malkin

Photographs by Lauren Shin

Helen Gerstenfeld Abreu ‘18 is from Montevideo, Uruguay. Double concentrating in economics and international relations, she plays an integral role as a Spanish Editor on the SOMOS literary magazine team and serves as a TA for intermediate microeconomics. Whether in the library or out and about, Helen is sure to impress with her refined yet individual style. Here’s what she had to say.


How would you describe your closet?

Wow, that’s a very good question. It’s definitely a mix. For example, in the summer, I’d say it’s very hippie-chic. But in the winter, I love wearing colors, chunky sweaters, and long coats; very long coats. I would describe it as slightly minimalist, but I also love wearing different textures and colors. I buy half of my clothes in the US and the other half from my favorite brands in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay.

Awesome. Where do you draw your style inspiration?

My mom is my style inspiration. She is the most elegant woman I know--such great taste.  I also love to follow Olivia Palermo’s style, and then I frequent some blogs daily: WhoWhatWear, Man Repeller, and TheyAllHateUs. They have really good inspirations there. It’s nice to see how other people combine and mix different things. You can actually see how things that you thought would never work together actually do. It gives you the confidence to try new looks.

Then how else have you developed your style?

When I was younger, I was always looking at my mom. I tried to copy things she wore. But I was really young, so it looked kind of weird. And then came that phase where we all wear the same things, because we don’t want to be different. But I always try to push some limits, a little bit self-consciously. After you grow up, you start realizing that it’s really cool to push those limits, and you really start developing and pushing your style. In the last few years, I’ve found what suits me better and how to mix all those things. I have more confidence now to wear what I want. Confidence is key. It’s influenced my style a lot.

As I said before, my wardrobe is all about mixing. So having a multicultural background motivates that. When I go back home, I see what they’re wearing, and that inspires me. I look at the brands that they’re wearing, and then I look at what people are wearing here, and I mix. Back home, I don’t know what they’re wearing right now, but they used to wear a lot of bohemian, embroidered things. Lots of colors. Here, it’s more minimalist. People wear a lot of black. So I try to mix all of that.

So chic. What pieces or outfits of yours best reflect your personal style?

I bought a pink coat the other day from Zara, which I think really reflects my personality. I’m kind of in a pink moment in my life. I’m buying everything in pink, and I don’t know why. I think it’s delicate and unexpected. I have another pink thing--this jacket--which I think is the craziest thing that I own. This was a gift from my mom. She wanted me to have something fun to wear. She loves buying clothes for me, even though I’m 21 years old and can do it myself. This piece is great for when you’re going out for the night. It just instantly upgrades the look. I just love it--really fun and kind of edgy, too.

Then this dress is from an Argentinean brand by the name of Maria Cher. I really love it. They have beautiful stuff, that perfect mix between 70s-bohemian and sleek minimalist style I wore it the other day when I went to NYC. It’s a really autumnal dress.

Love it. What’s your go-to outfit?

I love these Madewell culottes. I try to mix skinny jeans with these kinds of jeans that are much more comfortable. Now that it’s fall, I usually use a sweater, preferably a colored one, and a coat. A nice, long coat.

Great. What piece or outfit do you wear when you want to stand out?

I love wearing red in the night. One of my favorite Chilean designers is Maria Cienfuegos. She actually uploaded a picture of me wearing a red dress of hers. She has beautiful things. I went to an event in Chile, and it was one of those functions where a lot of new designers brought their stuff. She caught my attention, so I started talking to her. I had an event and I needed a dress, and she had this beautiful design. I love the sleeves. They’re very elegant. The picture doesn't capture the beautiful tone of red.

And then this necklace was a gift from my boyfriend. I really like different jewelry. I’d wear it with a turtleneck in the fall or a black, silk camisole in the summer. The necklace should really stand out.

What piece or outfit of yours are you currently obsessed with?

I’m obsessed with these Alexander Wang shoes. We have inverted seasons back home, so I buy things for the summer for winter break. I’m in love.

Hang on. What about those?

Oh, the Crocs! The Crocs are my shower shoes. Please, please don’t let anyone see me with these things. They’re super comfortable, and that’s all I’m going to say. Back to my obsessions. I’ve also been monogramming everything recently. This purse, for example. And this bag was also a nice find. It's from a store called Sicily Bags. I’m going to Mexico for Thanksgiving, and I’m definitely taking this; perfect for when you just need somewhere to put your phone.

Really cute. Have you ever committed a major fashion faux pas?

Oh my God, yes. So many. When you’re trying to push limits, you always go too far. It’s part of the process. And there are different fashions at different times, so I go back to my pictures from 2008, and maybe it looked really good in the moment, but now I want to cry. The Crocs aren’t a faux pas. They’re an acquired taste. I actually saw someone at the beach back home wearing neon orange Crocs, and they looked really cool. The key is the confidence with which you wear them. Confidence is the best accessory.

So what outfit makes you feel most confident?

You know, I really like colors but now that I’m wearing all black, it makes me feel powerful, serious, and sleek. I wasn’t used to wearing black during the day. But now I’ve embraced that. Back home, for example, I would never wear Nike leggings during the day. But here, I've realized how you can be casual and look cool at the same time. Like I can wear Nike leggings with cool sneakers and a bomber. You need to be comfortable for class--can’t be wearing leather all day.

Too true. Finally, why is style important to you?

I think style means a lot to me because I have moved a lot from country to country, and the only things that I can take with me are my clothes and my books. And that’s why my clothes and, hence, my style are such integral parts of who I am. They’re things I take with me everywhere that I go.

Spoken like a true globetrotter. For more of Helen’s transnational style, visit her in TA office hours--just don’t tell her we sent you.