Helmut Lang Seen by Shayne Oliver + Helmut Lang “Re-Edition”
As the iconic house reboots with a limited but high-impact range designed by Shayne Oliver and Isabella Burley, VIVISXN unpacks the new aesthetic of one of the most influential designers of the 1990s.
Launched in 1986, Austrian designer Helmut Lang‘s namesake label came to define the stripped-down, post-grunge luxury of the 90s. Pushing a minimalist aesthetic influenced by oddball art, his signature denim, deconstructed tailoring, and high-tech fabrics became the uniform of the decade’s creative class. When Lang left in 2005 to pursue ‘other artistic endeavors’, the brand went into a death spiral, hijacked by corporate know-it-alls and ‘fashion consultants’ who have steered it away from its roots. The label relaunched last night (formally) as an interdisciplinary collective overseen by editor-in-residence Isabella Burley and Shayne Oliver of Hood by Air.
Conceptual designer Shayne Oliver (below wearing square earpiece) launched his experimental couture label — Hood by Air — a few years back and quickly established himself at the forefront of NYC’s fashion avant-garde. He embodies the principles of high artistry and collective craftsmanship, but with a millennial nous, a penchant for streetstyle and an obsession with all things taboo.
So, predictably, last night there was a tsunami of sexed up themes in the revived Helmut Lang showcase: latex and rubber things, leather harnesses, asymmetric bras, provocative peekaboo harnesses and ruffian, tatted out muses (Slick Woods, Duckie Thot, Selena Forest, Mekhi Alante Lucky, etc.). A selection of vintage pieces from past collections, a “re-edition” (in the manner of an artist’s estate) was also on display: leather codpieces, strappy BDSM gear, black parkas and dramatic lambskin fold-over footwear. They were done in the spirit of Helmut Lang originals — including erotically-charged motorbike jackets/pants, semi-sheer fabrics, utility vests, blood-red trenches and bonkers accessories.
From our perspective, the net aesthetic was a four-way collision of classic Margiela, COMME des GARÇONS, Rick Owens and vintage Helmut Lang — the avant-garde offspring of fashion’s most revered brands. Fashion critics went berserk, of course, praising the revived label for its fusion of classical influences with gothic, Brutalist design and Shayne’s ascetic tribalism.
VIVISXN admires Shayne’s interpretation, and pours praise on the project for its priestly and profane qualities. But in aggregate the range really looked like a Margiela mutation, circa 1998, with psycho-sexual tidbits and looks lifted from yesteryear. Fashion has always had an obsession with the past. The pitfall of course is that reverence will give way to over-stylization, corporatist whim and trend-following. Rather than an exercise in nostalgia, this collection, though lofty, felt as if the designers had amalgamated and propagated something else — a sort of simulacrum of the aforementioned artists. Anyway, we really enjoyed the show and wish upon a lucky star that the designers can ‘make Helmut Lang cool again.’ Props, Shayne and Isabella! Watch the vid here or scroll all the way down.
VIVISXN MEDIA – Fashion + Art