In the early 2000s, I owned a black Helmut Lang pantsuit. It was a three-button, single-breasted jacket paired with straight-front trousers, albeit in a relaxed style. Back then, the very word "pantsuit" made me feel a bit uncomfortable, but there was something undeniably special about this piece of clothing. It had the power to transform me, making me feel like my coolest and most mature self—someone who could confidently walk into any room and strike up a conversation with anyone.
Wearing that suit was a source of pride, and I cherished it dearly. Even today, I often find myself reminiscing about it, and almost without fail, someone else will approach me and share their own stories about Helmut Lang. It's remarkable how these garments captured the spirit of a culture and a moment marked by unease and discontent and unleashed it, leaving an indelible impact not only on individuals but also on the fashion industry as a whole.
One notable example of Helmut Lang's influence was his decision to change his show schedule in 1998. He moved his fashion shows from Paris to New York Fashion Week, a move that defied convention. Typically, New York was the last city on the fashion calendar, with shows held in mid-October. But Helmut Lang sought to change that, moving his show to early September, and in doing so, he inspired the entire city to follow suit.
However, after Helmut Lang left his eponymous brand in 2005, Fast Retailing, the company that acquired the brand in the following year, attempted to revive his legacy through a series of designers and "editors-in-residence." Sadly, many of these attempts ended up tarnishing the brand's image.
Fast forward to today, as New York Fashion Week kicks off once more, the company is trying again. In theory, the timing couldn't be better. The late 1990s and early 2000s, a time before the era of social media transformed our lives, have become a constant reference point in the world of fashion.
Peter Do, Helmut Lang's successor, seems tailor-made to uphold that legacy. He was a rising star whose designs closely mirrored Lang's style, positioning him as a worthy successor. The anticipation was palpable as the cavernous space on the Lower East Side filled with fashion enthusiasts.
A poem by Peter Do's friend, the writer Ocean Vuong, adorned the floor, similar to the way Helmut Lang once displayed quotes by artist Jenny Holzer around his shops. It was evident that Peter Do had done his homework, paying homage to the brand's roots and ethos.
Yet, herein lies the dilemma. The Peter Do collection is filled with quintessential Helmut Lang elements: straps, taxi prints reminiscent of Lang's taxi advertising campaigns, T-shirt dresses with a touch of silk that echo Stella Tennant's iconic wedding dress. Everything is crafted with meticulous attention to detail, adhering to Mr. Lang's signature aesthetics—flat front straight trousers, Crombie coats, and lacquered jeans.
While this homage to Helmut Lang's legacy is undoubtedly well-intentioned, it raises questions about whether it's possible to truly capture the essence of a legendary designer and era without simply replicating it. Helmut Lang's creations were iconic because they were innovative, pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo. Attempting to recreate his work risks diluting the very essence that made it groundbreaking.
In the end, fashion is not merely about paying tribute to the past but also about pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation. Helmut Lang's legacy should inspire designers like Peter Do to build upon the foundation he laid, forging new paths and creating designs that resonate with the contemporary world while still honoring the spirit of the past.
The Peter Do era may be an homage to a fashion legend, but it should also be an opportunity to carve out a new, unique identity. Let's celebrate the timeless influence of Helmut Lang while eagerly anticipating what the future holds for the brand and the fashion industry as a whole.