Helmut Lang, A/W 2004-05. Photo by Stany Dederen

After resigning as creative director of his fashion house in 2005, Helmut Lang turned away from his former profession to focus solely on fine art. His minimalist and deconstructivist work is no longer presented on runways, but represented by galleries dealing in contemporary art. During his career in fashion, Lang kept the art world close by with various creative collaborations with stylists, photographers, and contemporary artists, such as Louise Bourgeois and Jenny Holzer. Whilst working in fashion, Lang spoke about his practice as being ‘against’ the commercial industry, as a part of a counter-movement that moved fashion towards a new kind of sobriety and away from 1980s glamour and excess.


Helmut Lang, S/S 2004. Photo by Stany Dederen

Lang still counts as one of the most influential designers and, this season, his brand was re-launched by Dazed and Confused’s editor-in-chief Isabella Burley, operating under the title “editor-in-residence”. Burley will oversee all creative aspects of the brand, and will sign up individual designers to work on solo collections, beginning with Shayne Oliver of Hood By Air. Burley explained her approach of ‘rotating designers’ to Vogue:

The idea of appointing different designers to work on projects was born of the notion of how Helmut as a legacy has influenced a new generation of designers. Shayne is the first of an on-going series […]The brand has such strong roots, there’s a very clear aesthetic, there’s a lot for people to respond to.

Oliver Shayne was most interested in the way Lang had played with elements of fetish and bondage. With many asymmetric bras and harnesses, rearless pants suspended from the waistband like garters and BDSM accessories, Shayne’s eccentric S/S 2018 collection clearly showed how he ‘wanted to bring back the vibe of sensuality’.

Helmut Lang had described his runway shows as ‘séances de travail’ or ‘working sessions’: they were pitched as art events, performing the mood of the moment in which his pieces were not just displayed as commodities but rather as clothing that was actually worn by creative individuals. For Shayne’s S/S 2018 show, casting directors Samuel Ellis Scheinman and Walter Pearce opted for a similar diverse line-up of old and new (street-cast) faces, bringing back several of Lang’s original muses including Danielle Zinaich and Kirsten Owen. Make-up artist Inge Grognard understood the raw beauty of Lang’s Nineties models and for ‘Lang seen by Shayne’ she added a two-tone mouth: painted in bright red with really thin and sharp burgundy in the corners.

It will be intriguing to see how these successive creative directors will work with the brand’s cult status and archive, and more importantly with the nostalgia that is still attached to Lang’s practice today.

More about Helmut Lang’s new identity as a contemporary artist here