Helmut Lang's Denim Line Signals A New Direction For The Struggling Brand
When Helmut Lang departed his namesake brand in 2005, the label’s relevance faded. Despite briefly hiring designer Katayone Adeli to revamp things in 2016, the brand failed to get going until it switched tactics. Instead of enlisting creative directors, it put one fashion industry professional in charge in the new role of editor-in-residence, swapping them for a new face every year.
Dazed’s editor-in-chief Isabella Burley became Helmut Lang’s first editor-in-residence in March 2017, igniting a fire that has yet to burn out. Burley used her clout in the industry to recruit Hood By Air’s Shayne Oliver to design a collection which debuted during New York Fashion Week last September. Realizing the obsession with vintage Lang, she also kickstarted the brand’s Re-Edition series which sees the reissue of previous minimalist designs.
Burley has now been replaced by the founding editor of V magazine, Alix Browne. Under her leadership, Helmut Lang appears to be taking a different route, focusing on core items that belong in any wardrobe.
Browne’s first project—a whole new denim line—has just been announced. Titled Under Construction, the range reintroduces classic pieces including trucker jackets and jeans in various cuts. Each garment deliberately looks unfinished with raw stitching and neutral hues and comes in traditional Italian and Japanese selvedge denim as well as a stand-out tan leather fabric.
Helmut Lang Jeans will also feature a new sizing system. Both men’s and women’s sizes will be stated on the label and tailored to fit each gender’s body. Browne told Vogue not to call the line unisex, describing it as “a more modern way to think about masculine and feminine gender codes.”
Denim isn’t the only new release from the brand. A satirical set of plain T-shirts and hoodies reading “In Lang We Trust” has been designed by artist Brian Roettinger while artist Sarah Morris has designed black cowboy boots featuring a splash of sunset orange or baby pink. The entire range will be available at select stockists in October.
Unlike last year, the brand has chosen not to employ another well-known design talent like Oliver. Whether this decision is due to Browne or financial necessity is unknown. Business of Fashion’s recent report which stated that Helmut Lang had laid off 40 staff in a bid to reduce its product offering and recuperate costs suggests the latter.
The brand is clearly still trying to find a strategy that sticks. Let’s hope this pared-back plan is it.