The FIDM Museum blog will be on hiatus through early January 2015. In the meantime, enjoy weekly posts from the archives. To keep up with our current projects, find us on Facebook and Twitter, which will be updated regularly during the blog hiatus. Helmut Lang's sheer dress was first posted to our blog in June 2013.
If something is good, it doesn't go out of style every six months. — Helmut Lang1
Almost classical in its simplicity, this black dress demonstrates Helmut Lang's (b. 1956) minimalist, understated aesthetic. Strong, almost angular lines are enhanced by the unusual, irregular weave of the textile. Decorative seaming and transparency conjure Madeleine Vionnet, but asymmetric sleeves, raw hems, visible stitching, and the distressed appearance of the textile evoke deconstruction. Though elements of the dress can be traced back in time, Lang combined them without much concern for the past. As Lang stated in a 1994 interview, "I think the history and the past we have is just an energy we've built up to do what we do now."2
Born in Austria, Helmut Lang (b. 1956) studied fashion design in his home country, opening his own studio in the late 1970s. In 1986, he presented his first Paris runway show. Lang's early work lacked the unadorned, modernist aesthetic of the dress seen here. In 1986, Vogue featured a dark green boiled wool Tyrolean jacket, "adorned with double rows of buttons—or piping—for obvious charm" by the "young Austrian" Helmut Lang.3 By the mid-1990s, however, Lang's understated aesthetic had developed to the point where he was frequently grouped with other "neo-modernist" designers, including Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester and Jil Sander. The influence of these minimalist designers indicated a new mood in fashion, one that rejected the opulent, decadent fashions of the 1980s.
Helmut Lang expanded his brand rapidly, and by the year 2000, his name adorned menswear, womenswear, underwear, shoes, jeans, accessories, perfume, even eyewear. Prada purchased a majority share in the company in late 2000, and Lang continued to design for the label until retiring from fashion in 2005. Though the Helmut Lang label still exists, it is no longer designed by its namesake. Today, Lang is an active visual artist with frequent exhibitions. Explore this work here.
1 "Helmut Lang: Fresh Glitter." Amy M. Spindler New York Times (July 17, 1994): 33.
3 "Vogue's View: Tyroleans." Vogue (Oct 1, 1986): 430.