Since putting his label on hold in April 2017, Shayne Oliver has been hard at work as the designer behind Helmut Lang, part of an impending series of creatives taking the helm – albeit temporarily – of the highly influential, yet entirely cult, label. As noted by Vogue, Dazed and Confused’s editor-in-chief Isabella Burley has been tapped to oversee all creative aspects of the brand, and will sign up individual designers to work on solo collections, beginning with Shayne Oliver of the recently defunct Hood By Air.
The approach certainly is an interesting one.
“The idea of appointing different designers to work on projects was borne 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,” says Burley. “We’re keeping it fluid in terms of the timelines – there won’t be a new designer every season necessarily. Each collaborator will work in a very different way so it’s about allowing them that space.”
Oliver seemed a perfect starting point, according to Burley. “It made sense. As I was getting into fashion and seeing the earlier Hood by Air shows I felt this energy, and I think it’s the energy [people] talk about when they remember Helmut Lang.”
As for the unconventional set up of different designers coming on board the eponymous label, which Austrian designer Helmut Lang launched in 1986 (and stepped away from in 2005), Burley notes: “I really see [the rotation of designers] as a strength. The brand has such strong roots, there’s a very clear aesthetic, there’s a lot for people to respond to.”
In addition to Oliver’s Helmut Lang debut in September, the brand will set to release a handful of archival pieces in connection with the collection. “There are a lot of people who really want to fall back in love with Helmut Lang. The intention is to celebrate those great archival pieces, reignite the conversation, and introduce Helmut Lang to a new generation of kids so that they can respond to the legacy in their own way,” per Burley.
She elaborated, saying: “The in-house design team and the creative team that I lead were in constant dialogue about the items to be re-released. We really wanted it to be gender-fluid, unisex pieces. ‘Volume 1’, comprising 15 pieces to be released in September, is a base, and then we will have additional volumes updated every four months as an evolving investigation into the archive. We want to keep it surprising.”
In the meantime, the brand has put archival Helmut Lang pieces front and center in a new ad campaign, which was shot by Ethan James Greene and features “cult Helmut Lang muses,” such as Alek Wek and Traci Lords. Of the campaign, itself, Burley says in was “crucial” for her to “reestablish the community around Helmut Lang again.”