Helmut Lang Spring Summer 2024 collection fashion show at New York Fashion Week SS24 (September 8, 2023).
Two Septembers ago, the fashion world witnessed a significant transformation as Peter Do, known for his eponymous brand, made his runway debut, stepping onto the mainstream fashion calendar after a few years of showing off-calendar. Fast forward to today, and Do has found himself filling the shoes of one of the most famous and influential designers of the last quarter-century—Helmut Lang.
In 2005, Helmut Lang walked away from his label at the pinnacle of his career. His signature approach of infusing subversive elements with elegance, elevating everyday staples like T-shirts, jeans, and army parkas to high fashion status, and seamlessly incorporating bondage references into sleek suiting left an indelible mark on the industry. Lang's designs have transcended eras, embodying a timeless modernity that never looks dated. His influence extends far and wide, with renowned designers such as Raf Simons and Phoebe Philo often drawing inspiration from his work. Peter Do himself cites Lang as one of his heroes, a fascination he developed as a teenager in suburban Philadelphia, primarily through the lens of Tumblr.
Over the years, the Helmut Lang brand, under Fast Retailing's ownership, has undergone numerous iterations, including a one-off collection by Hood by Air's Shayne Oliver for Spring 2018. While these changes did not diminish Lang's personal stature—he has since turned to artistry in Long Island—the brand's recent collections seemed to lack a cohesive identity. Do's appointment promises a revitalization of the label. As he expressed on Vogue's The Run-Through podcast, "The thing that I react really strongly to is work that almost looks like it's always been there. I felt like good design is a design that feels like it's always been there."
Do approached his role with a super-fan's attention to detail, delving into the company's history. The iconic yellow taxi cab print that adorned various fabrications paid homage to Lang's groundbreaking move of advertising on the tops of taxi cabs, a format once considered too ordinary for high fashion. This also provided a theme for a poem by Do's collaborator, the author Ocean Vuong, which was printed on the venue's concrete floor, harkening back to the Jenny Holzer installation that graced the original Helmut Lang store at 80 Greene Street. Vuong's words also appeared on the backs of button-downs worn in reverse, creating a poetic spectacle as models strutted down the runway: "Your car was my first room / Our clothes on the floor like stepped-on flowers."
Do masterfully embraced Lang's tailoring legacy, showcasing flat-front, natural-waist trousers, androgynous yet subtly distinctive jackets, and crombie coats. The fabrications felt luxurious to the touch, a testament to Do's commitment to quality. The seat belt straps that crisscrossed the torsos and passed through belt loops were a direct nod to the brand's archive, evoking the underground world of bondage clubs. However, the genius lay in their versatility; remove them, and the suits seamlessly transition into the mainstream.
The potential of the new Helmut Lang collection lies in its high-fashion suits at reasonable, less-than-high-fashion prices. As Do stated, "We want to open up the dialogue to a wider group of people… and for the clothes to have longevity without being super expensive." He made it clear that he wouldn't have accepted the role if the prices were on par with his eponymous label. This distinction reflects Do's strategic vision—his reverence for his designer hero is balanced with a pragmatic approach to the business.
The Helmut Lang Spring Summer 2024 collection marks a promising resurgence for the iconic brand. Under Peter Do's creative direction, it reclaims its subversive elegance, imbuing everyday wear with high-fashion allure. As the fashion world eagerly anticipates the availability of these designs, one thing is certain: Helmut Lang's legacy is in capable hands, and it's poised to reclaim its place at the forefront of the industry.
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