SS18: Helmut Under A New Helm

As the designer behind the Hood By Air label, Shayne Oliver was renown for his flamboyantly theatrical shows, missed by many when after announcing a hiatus, the cult fashion favorite was absent from the New York schedule last season. But on Monday night, the CFDA award winner was back in the spotlight as the inaugural artist-inspired collection for Helmut Lang was unveiled on the runway.

Helmut Lang Seen by Shayne Oliver is the first in a series of designer collaborations, overseen by new ‘editor-in-residence’ Dazed and Confused’s Isabella Burley, aimed at introducing the iconic brand to a new generation. Widely acknowledged as a pioneer, Helmut Lang’s influence remains strong today, with designers past and present citing the now-elusive Austrian as an inspiration. But while keen to acknowledge the label’s legacy, this much-publicized relaunch is also concerned with taking the conversation forward, capturing the spirit of the brand rather than wistfully looking back.

  Kirsten Owen, a model favorite from the original Lang era, in signature tailoring on the SS18 runway / Photo: businessoffashion.com

Kirsten Owen, a model favorite from the original Lang era, in signature tailoring on the SS18 runway / Photo: businessoffashion.com

Shayne Oliver is no stranger to the brand's signatures, having himself paid homage to Helmut Lang in his Hood By Air collections. And while flashes of minimalism appeared in elements of tailoring on the evening’s runway, and fabrics were reminiscent of Lang’s familiar color palette, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the designer’s fascination with fetishism that proved to be central to Oliver’s first project for the series.

Like Helmut Lang, Hood By Air was famously provocative. However, while in the original 1990s collections sexuality tended to be subtle and suggestive, Oliver’s take was far more explicit, and this was overtly evident in his reinterpretation of the cult brand.

  A fascination with fetishism / Photo: businessoffashion.com

A fascination with fetishism / Photo: businessoffashion.com

  Pants slit from hem to thigh played to the peekaboo mood / Photo: businessoffashion.com

Pants slit from hem to thigh played to the peekaboo mood / Photo: businessoffashion.com

  Sheer, another Lang signature / Photo: businessoffashion.com

Sheer, another Lang signature / Photo: businessoffashion.com

Taking the bra as the pivotal piece, barely-there styles featuring myriad combinations of cut-outs and multiple straps were followed by oversize designs that were layered under as well as over more formal clothing. The peekaboo theme extended to harness-like detailing and pants slit from hem to thigh, as well as several sheer styles that were evocative of the Lang era.

As part of the relaunch, pieces from the Lang archive are also being reissued every four months under the ‘Re-Edition’ label. “It’s really important for Helmut Lang to be an authority on Helmut Lang again, " Isabella Burley told Vogue this summer. It will be interesting to see to what extent and by whom these old world pieces are embraced compared to the new world designs, and whether original Lang fans are won over by Oliver and those from his own cohort converted.