Helmut Lang

Tonie Ong

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Articles on Helmut Lang

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There are many designers who are interested in sex when it comes to clothing. Good examples are Gianni Versace and Dolce and Gabbana. Their designs usually highlight the body in sensual and erotic ways, even if their prints and colors can be loud at times. The showing of skin, the way their models moved, the runway was full of sultriness during their fashion shows. However, while these Italian designers explored sex at its face value, other designers explored sex in its raw and carnal way. Their views on sex weren’t just about sensual glamour, but real, passionate, and touch sex. One designer who did this was Helmut Lang.

Helmut Lang is known for his raw minimalism which always had a sexual subversiveness to it. His designs were seemingly simple, but was full of complexities and details which weren’t that obvious to the eye at first, but held up the pieces in such an innovative way. He was brash in his portrayal of sex on the runway, always with such dark and somber themes, far from the glamour of the designers in Paris and Milan. His brand was one of many that helped define the grunge style of the 1990’s, but still had a touch of minimalism which was also popular around the same time.

Helmut Lang Fashion House

Legacy in fashion

Helmut Lang Lucite Briefcase
Helmut Lang Lucite Briefcase

With his revolutionary designs, Helmut Lang changed the fashion landscape. He put his own spin to minimalism which is far from the classic touches of the likes of Chanel and Calvin Klein. His minimalist is more tailored, more raw, and very subversive. At face value, his clothes may look simple, but it’s made up of a unique type of construction and tailoring that only the designer and the client wearing the garment will know about. He also brought more importance to menswear in the 1990’s. Years prior, fashion was more focused on womenswear, especially since that time was dominated by the female supermodels. Lang changed fashion’s trajectory to put a lot more emphasis on the menswear of the youth.

Models walk the runway at the Helmut Lang Spring 2014 fashion show
Models walk the runway at the Helmut Lang Spring 2014 fashion show

The man that created and carried the brand through the 21st century

Designer Helmut Lang - The Man Behind the Brand

Helmut Lang was born on March 10, 1956, in Vienna, Austria. At infancy, his parents separated and he was sent to live with his maternal grandparents near the Austrian Alps. In 1966, he went on to live with his dad and stepmother back to Vienna where he witnessed how the middle class lived. Growing up in the country’s capital, Lang studied what people wore in their everyday lives, which eventually influenced how he designed. By the 1970’s, he began designing his own clothes and opened a made-to-measure shop in 1977. Almost a decade later, in 1986, Lang debuted his collections in Paris as part of the Centre National D’Art et de Culture Georges-Pompidou’s exhibition on modern Viennese artists.

After his debut, he soon became a staple in Paris Fashion Week, presenting his modern and minimalist take on fashion. He introduced a sleek and somber look that the fashion crowd hadn’t seen before, and he was an instant sensation. Throughout the 1990’s, against the commercial giants in New York, the exuberant labels in Milan, and the haute couture houses in Paris, the Helmut Lang brand dominated the fashion conversation. Its collections were hits throughout the decade, and Lang eventually became one of the most influential designers in the industry. In the early 2000’s, the brand was acquired by various luxury groups, and as a result, Lang himself retired from fashion in 2005. His eponymous line eventually closed soon after.


Designer couple Michael and Nicole Colovos
Designer couple Michael and Nicole Colovos

A year after Lang closed off from the fashion world, in 2006, the company was re-launched by American-New Zealander designer couple Michael and Nicole Colovos. They transformed the Helmut Lang identity into a more commercial and sportswear type label and relaunched the website a few years after. Colovos’ collections for the brand was carried by prominent retailers, such as Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys. In 2014, the couple stepped down from their creative directorship of the brand and as a result, the line closed down for the second time. It was eventually re-launched in 2017 by Dazed and Confused editor Isabella Burley. The current creative director is menswear designer Mark Howard.

Fragrance line

Helmut Lang Perfume

While Helmut Lang is known by many as an influential fashion brand, the label had its own fragrance line as well. Their first was the Eau de Parfum and Eau de Cologne scents in 2000. The parfum is an oriental fragrance with notes of jasmine, orange blossom and rose, among others. On the other hand, the cologne is more woody with its mix of sandalwood, musk, and cedar. A year later, in 2001, they released their Velviona scent, which is famous for its medicine-like bottle. It has a floral musk fragrance to it that is both tantalizing and seductive. The Curion, released in 2002, is considered by many as the male counterpart of Velviona, with its equally medicine-like bottle and its woody chypre fragrance of cinnamon and pepper notes.

Even though Helmut Lang is no longer in fashion today, his label and legacy live on. The way fashion is today was changed by this Austrian artist who took fashion by storm in the 1990’s.

Helmut Lang boutique at 93 Mercer Street. Soho area of downtown Manhattan, New York City, USA.
Helmut Lang boutique at 93 Mercer Street. Soho area of downtown Manhattan, New York City, USA.

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