An interesting experiment is underway at Helmut Lang. While Lang himself left the brand in 2005 in favor of working as sculptor in upstate New York, his uniquely sensual take on minimalism continues to be felt in the way we dress today and has often been referenced in the aesthetics and philosophies of today’s top designers—Alexander Wang, Raf Simons, and Demna Gvasalia of Vetements included. So when the hunt began for a new creative director to take the reins of the iconic brand, the industry was abuzz with speculation over who might be able to fill those patent leather shoes. The final answer? No one.
That’s because rather than settling on a single creative director, last year the brand instead hired then-26-year-old Dazed magazine editor Isabella Burley under the title of Editor-in-Residence. Burley set about selecting a series of creatives to serve as “guest designers,” each helming the brand for a season or two. First up is Shayne Oliver, the ideas man behind Hood By Air, who created Helmut Lang’s SS18 collection. Drawing inspiration from Lang’s stripped-down luxury, his punk undertones, and the shared love of all things fetish, the offering took the best of Lang’s classic design elements and applied a streetwise twist for a modern update. Below, we take a closer look at a few of Oliver’s designs for the house, alongside pieces from Helmut Lang’s recent resort collection, to see how this always-relevant brand continues to evolve.
STREETWEAR SPIN: The cutout sleeve
A style staple of many of Lang’s collections was a cut-off cuff, often seen on t-shirts, sweaters, and blouses. This idea has been updated as a cutout on the sleeves of this sequined minidress that is sure to give you a hardcore case of disco fever.
STREETWEAR SPIN: Bondagey strap
Capitalizing on both designers’ shared love of fetish and bondage gear, Oliver has taken Lang’s signature straps and raised the stakes by applying one to this flirtatious skirt in a way that allows the hem to be raised or lowered at the wearer’s discretion.
STREETWEAR SPIN: Deconstructed Edge
One of Lang’s signature aesthetic choices was his refined sense of the deconstructed. That thought continues to be seen through the collections, as it’s been applied here with a frayed edge on otherwise tailored pieces.
STREETWEAR SPIN: Sporty seamwork
Leave it to Oliver, known for creating buzz around covetable items, to create a series of tour-merch-inspired pieces that capitalize on Lang’s standout logo. Here, a center front seam adds a refined shape to the oversized silhouette of a T-shirt in the collection’s signature millennial pink hue.
STREETWEAR SPIN: Oversized safety pin
Tapping into Lang’s subtle punk influences, this otherwise classic button-down gets a bit of edge from that most punk of details: the safety pin. Here, an oversized version acts as an adornment as it pierces the collar.
STREETWEAR SPIN: Contrast stitching
Lingerie-inspired dressing meant Lang played with layers of transparency, as seen in the sheer silk organza of this sleeveless dress. A hint of black mesh serves as trim, adding to the shape created by a lettuce-edged flared hem.
STREETWEAR SPIN: Gritty sheen
Oliver tapped into Lang’s interest in pairing refined materials with utilitarian designs in the creation of understated luxury. In this show-stopping trench coat, a practical silhouette is elevated by taking patent leather—one of Lang’s go-to materials—and reimagining it in a textured finish.