Okay, I have to say – I was pretty excited when I heard Shane Oliver and a bunch of other contemporary creatives will reinvent Helmut Lang. It’s about time to dig out the brand from the grave yard it has rested in after Lang left in 2005.
You can guess Shane Oliver takes it seriously as he even put down his own brand “Hood By Air” to focus all his creative power on getting the Helmut Lang brand back on it’s feet.
Well, to be honest – the first collection from Oliver for Helmut Lang last fall was not exactly what I had hoped for. It was not bad, but I missed the sensual finesse of master Lang. But it was still a lot better when compared to what happened after fashion industry giant “Link Theory” bought Helmut Lang in 2006.
Not to talk about the designers Michael and Nicole Colovos – who did the Jeans label Habitual well, but completely missed out on Lang’s legacy of being a creative inventor. Nothing happened to move the high end brand in the right direction for over 10 years.
The art aspect of the brand was completely detracted and Helmut Lang went to on to become mainstream. Following the motto of “Don’t make it too fancy, but still ad a little bit of attitude”. This is something really dangerous in the high fashion world – especially at the moment where no-one wants to play it safe anymore. And it also didn’t work for the Helmut Lang brand.
Even big fashion brands like Maison Margiela (before Galliano) had their problems with playing it too safe the past few years. Nobody wants to look average anymore (except for some strange individuals, who just wear clothes to protect their body from the environment – a mystery to me ;-) ).
So back to the present! Shane Oliver (Hood By Air), Isabella Burley (Dazed & Confuzed magazine) and Ava Nirui (multitalented) are trying their best to get the baby back on track. But in the moment it seems to me, that the one true mastermind is still missing.
Don’t get me wrong – all of the people mentioned above are unique and excellent in their fields, but the overall vision to truly develop the brand is missing. There are a lot of new inputs and even the link to the art world is back by the introduction of the collabs with Walter Pfeiffer and Keizo Kitajima. But it seems there are lots of loose ends and pieces, that don’t fit well together.
Concerning the awful past of the country I live in (Austria, in case you missed it) I’m the last calling out for a “strong man or woman“. But I think that is what’s still missing for the brand. Maybe that’s the strategy right now – to work with different people and later find out who suits best and who will shape the brand in the future. Just like Gucci did after Tom Ford left in 2004 with 3 designers taking over to figure out who will eventually get the lead (Frida Giannini did in the end).
Behind every successful man …
If you look back, Helmut Lang also had some help and inspirational people by his side in the past. Melanie Ward was for Lang what Lotta Volkova today is for Demna Gvasalia.
The stylist Ward worked with Helmut Lang starting from 1992 (for 13 years!). Together they disrupted the fashion industry by decisions like showing the Autumn/Winter collection ’98 only on the website in digital format.
Ward absolutely had the “Zeitgeist” vision of the 90’s. She’s the mother of Lo-fi luxury, androgyne sleekness and layering.
Taxi capsule collection
The brand new idea of promoting a luxury high fashion label with ads on cabs (stating only the brand name!) in 1998 was something Melanie Ward was highly involved with. Over 1000 yellow cabs were branded all around New York and you still can spot them in some famous 90’s film productions (like “Sex and the City “and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 days”). This taxi advertising idea lets you understand how innovative Helmut Lang was.
For 2018’s taxi capsule collection they managed to get at least 275 Helmut Lang cabs cruising around the city. The campaign for the collection was shot in today’s norm core addicted style world – with taxi drivers wearing the pieces in Long Island, Queens.
The collection will be restocked soon (which kind of misses the point of a limited edition, right?)!
This restates the fact, that there’s still some guidance missing.
Therefore, Helmut Lang is still a construction site at the moment – if you ask me. You can glimpse some sparkles shining under the tarpaulin already. I hope that Oliver will be able to dig a little deeper into the archive and get to know the innovative spirit Lang had. But then he has to develop his own version of the “Helmut Lang future”! (I hope he will even find something in the archive since Lang shredded most of the items… He used them for his own art installations – which, honestly, came out also looking like garbage.)
That brings me to my last word, that is directed to Helmut personally:
Helmut, you are really not a good artist – you try hard, but it’s really just nothing. You are just the best fashion designer I know and I miss you so much! I know the fashion industry is fucked up and stressful, but you had the power to change things – even back than. You could also lead us into the future!
Music: Captive Portal – Beautiful Reciprocal (feat. Josh Büche)
Location: Lehigh Acres, Florida, USA
Photography: Lady Venom / Marion Vicenta Payr
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