THE HELENE AWARDS
The inaugural Helene Awards will premiere during the Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance on Friday, October 25, 2019, at the GALA Party for deserving innovators throughout the automotive industry for outstanding achievement in the design, development and future of the automobile.
Best of Show Pre-War and Best in Show Post-War winners will be awarded the coveted Helene statuette on Saturday, October 26, 2019 at the DragonRidge Country Club.
A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME
The awards bearing her name have finally arrived.
In 1943, Helene Rother became the first female automotive designer at General Motors. The most remarkable thing is that she made $600 per month when her male counterparts made $200. Clearly, she was ahead of her time.
She stayed at GM for four years before opening her own design studio, Helene Rother Associates, specializing in automotive interiors, furniture and stained-glass windows.
Ms. Rother was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1908. Years later, when the Nazis occupied France, she and her seven-year-old daughter, Ina, fled to a refugee camp in Casablanca where they stayed before finding passage on a ship bound for New York City in 1941.
With virtually no experience in automobile design, Ms. Rother found work at GM in 1943. With her daughter in tow, she moved to Detroit and went to work on upholstery, lighting, door hardware and seat construction. In 1948, in a paper published with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), she asked pointedly, “Are we doing a good job in our car interiors?” And, with regard to materials and textures, she stated, “You get exactly what you pay for.”
From 1948 to 1956, she styled the elegant interiors of most Nash Motors cars.
Her early efforts showed up in the 1948 Nash 600 and Ambassador Custom trim. Even the economical Nash Rambler models were prominently promoted as “irresistible glamour” on wheels. The new 1951 Rambler models were also “given the custom touch” with fabrics and colors selected by Ms. Rother that “equaled the best of interiors in American luxury cars of the period.”
Nash sales brochures and Rambler ads of the time proclaimed: “Styling by Pininfarina and interiors by Madame Helene Rother of Paris.” Pininfarina has been the best-known designer of Ferraris since the 1960s, and the Nash Healey is considered one of the most beautiful non-Ferrari Pininfarina designs.
In 1954, the Nash Ambassador featured completely new interiors by Ms. Rother. Nash merged with Hudson to create American Motors Corporation (AMC), but her influence on interior fashion in automobiles continued.
Ms. Rother died in 1999 at her ranch in Metamora, Michigan, where she and her daughter resided.