Personally I’ve never been to a Helmut Lang show, so it was rather exciting to watch one, although this wasn’t a Helmut Lang show per se, not in the typical sense, rather it was a Helmut Lang as seen by Shayne Oliver show, overseen by the brand’s new Editor-in-Residence, the lovely Isabella Burley. Which all in all meant a nice excuse for a moment to declare our collective undying love for the Austrian god outside of our own personal shrine that we make sacrificial offerings to each evening. So let’s get to it. If it was Helmut Lang as seen by Shayne Olivier then what, exactly, did he see? Sex. “It all comes back to sexuality,” he said backstage. Because underneath Lang’s clothes, even at their most severe, a surreptitious sexuality lurked – throughout his collections Lang played with the way that utility could so easily become bondage, that you could hide transgression under a cooly-cut suit. So on the soundtrack was Whitney Houston, I Have Nothing, taken from the movie The Bodyguard – Oliver saying that he was obsessed by Whitney’s character’s sexual power, but also her need protection. So he began with our most intimate garment – underwear – delicate, but coded with desire. So the collection played with and warped the shapes lingerie – cupped wired bras with razor-thin straps barely covered the model’s breasts, falling away into twisted leather dresses. An oversized bra sat on top of a long-cut men’s coat. There were bondage-style straps, floating layers of organza that revealed the model’s bodies beneath. The obsession with the corporal was enlivened with Shayne’s knack for the surreal – perspex suitcases, hefty cowboy boots, newspaper print clutches held over the model’s faces. So it felt like a homage, but it still felt like his own. Which is success enough for us. When asked what the title “Designer-in-Residence” meant, Oliver was coy – would he return next season? He wouldn’t say. But we’d be more than happy to see more.
by Jack Moss