Nipple pasties in New York: the return of Helmut Lang

6 months, 28 days ago

Shayne Oliver, of Hood by Air, kicks off a series of guest takes on the designer whose looking has never gone away

It is 12 years since the designer left the Manhattan fashion scene in favour of life as a sculptor in upstate New York, but the Helmut Lang looking never went away.

Lang devoted the modern urban creative class its uniform: snake-hipped, flat-fronted black trousers with a tissue-thin white cotton T-shirt; a slip-up dress with biker boots; a bomber coat with paint-spattered jeans- all of these are classic Lang appears. They never went out of way, they just had a different name on the label.

Alexander Wang, Raf Simons, Vetements, Kanye West’s Yeezy: many of the most influential names of the past decades borrow something of their aesthetic and philosophy from Lang.

Hence the strategy behind the relaunch of Helmut Lang on its return to New York fashion week: let the hipster decorators who already pay homage to Lang on their own catwalks do so in-house, putting the Helmut Lang label back into the clothes and the cash back into the brand’s coffers.

Isabella Burley, the 26 -year-old British manner editor who is now leading the brand, will invite guest designers in-house for a season or two each. On Monday night, the first in the hot seat, ex-Hood by Air designer Shayne Oliver, presented his take over Helmut Lang.

The challenge here is that no revamp of Helmut Lang could ever perhaps be as cool as the original Helmut Lang. Lang is the modern cool designer’s all-time favourite cool designer, the David Bowie of the manner world.

The Helmut Lang aesthetic diaspora means you can buy the look- a skinny Crombie coat, a filmy parachute silk dress, a black tank with a few fetishy straps here and there- anywhere. Helmut Lang the brand will succeed or fail on whether it makes a new generation want the Helmut Lang label and logo, as well as the looking. And that depends on building the name cool again.

The Helmut Lang show in New York, Monday night. Photo: Kathy Willens/ AP

Which is where Monday night’s catwalk show came in. Outside, security guards struggled to impose order on mob jostling the Soho pavement. The 9pm start time came and ran. Wooden benches lining the cavernous space filled up with noisy show-goers and, with them, an unmistakable smell of weed.

Rapper Lil Yachty, wearing a vintage Morrissey T-shirt and a beaded Bart Simpson pendant, sat on the front row. In the buildup, the benches began to vibrate to a shuddering soundtrack which subsequently, during the finale, morphed into Whitney Houston’s ballad I’ve Got Nothing, to whoops from the audience. You don’t get that at Oscar de la Renta.

Shane Oliver’s” love letter to Helmut Lang”, as Burley called it, was unmistakably aimed at the nude-selfie generation. Oliver, who memorably sent models with hair slicked with “love juice” down the runway for his Hood by Air label, amplified the fetishistic elements that were always a part of Lang’s style.

Sophia Lamar models a Shayne Oliver creation for Helmut Lang. Photo: JP Yim/ Getty Images For TRESemme Helmut Lang

A deconstructed bra-top was the starting point for most outfits. Bondage straps hung teasingly from leather trousers, parachute silks were brazenly transparent. There were nipple pasties.

Backstage after the depict, amid a din that had the designer leaning in to cup editors’ ears to construct his thoughts heard for those of us gathered with notebooks, Oliver talked about” relevance to real lives, fetish ideas, school uniform gestures, but most of all sensuality “.( In a recent New York Times interview he was less bashful, calling his take on the Lang aesthetic “horny” .)

With debates raging over diversity and model health, casting is a touchpaper issue at every fashion prove, and therefore a statement. Models who starred in Helmut Lang’s original depicts, including Kristen Owen and Missy Rayder, appeared here alongside gap-toothed alt-model Slick Woods and( in the nipple pasties) Manhattan nightlife queen Sophia Lamar.

” That stance, that walk … you can’t teach that ,” said Oliver of the distinctive scowling, shoulder-rolling swagger of Kristen Owen’s generation of edgy 90 s models.” It was great to have the new version of that, mixed in with the old version. To prove where it came from .”

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