Just like new fashion goes through trends, old fashion goes through trends too.
One decade (OK: the noughties), people are going crazy for vintage Bodymap and Moschino.
Now it’s Helmut Lang and Issey Miyake Sport for guys, Pleats Please and 90s Comme for girls. Next decade, or next week going from how voracious these things are, it’ll probably be something else.
It’s often purely down to what’s cheap. Helmut Lang used to be abundant on eBay and the like when his almost deliberately synthetic, very 90s, very minimal and very crisp aesthetic was at odds with the more baroque likes of Prada, Dries and whoever else was on the scene at the time.
But as with all things, the fashion pendulum swung back toward minimalism and Lang’s departure from his Prada-owned label to become an artist, making way for ex-Cloak designer Alexandre Plokhov in 2005, has made his original stuff even scarcer.
Not to mention that many of Lang’s ideas were so cutting-edge they’re only just beginning to make their mark. Another reason to buy vintage.
We’ll keep updating this post with the things to look for when finding OG Helmut Lang. The Plokhov stuff is OK, but pretty indistinguishable from the other athleisure/health goth labels out there – while original Lang is frankly just decades ahead of its time. Perfect-fitting denim, advanced fabric manipulation, slightly reworked military silhouettes and a streak of androgyny – plus it’s wearable as fuck.
What to look for when buying vintage Helmut Lang online:
- The labels
These can be super-confusing, but generally anything with HELMUT LANG NEW YORK is post ’05 and, while nice, not as interesting or as superior quality as the originals.Some of the original Lang labels are designed to look like clothes tags you’d put in your school kitbag – they have HELMUT LANG with a line underneath and the letter ‘M’.
Some of the older pieces have the year of production on the label, eg ‘Made in 1998’.
Some of the later pieces, I believe from post-2000, just have a slim rectangular black label with HELMUT LANG, eg on the inner pocket of a jacket either in black or white text.
- The key pieces
One of the great things about Helmut Lang is that he often returned to the same pieces again and again, refining them obsessively. Rather than waste space, here’s a list of some of the most desirable Helmut Lang grails out there:The Denim Jacket: A Lang staple for men and women. Fabric is key – some raw, some washed, some distressed, some made from denim and silk. And some with stripes on the back as per the one Raf Simons himself owns:
The jeans: Like the jackets, these come in a range of fits. They usually fit long, and can be deceptive – the bootcut fit doesn’t exactly always look like a bootcut, so try a few of them.
The airtex shirt: Yours truly once got one of these off eBay for something like £5, but it wasn’t my size at the time so I passed it on. I’ve added it to my pile of fashion regrets (there are many). Mine was short-sleeved, with a sort of sculpted cut and made from khaki mesh – basically everything you want in a shirt circa SS17. My loss.
The bombers: One of the most famous. You don’t need me to tell you the score, but those bondage straps you see on every lame streetwear brand’s jackets right now? Ripped from Mr. Lang. And they still look the best. These allow you to sling the jackets on your back, like a backpack.
The shirt jackets: For our money, just as good as the bombers. You have Lang to thank for all the crisp, cropped shirt jackets out there right now. Keep an eye out for any with zipped parka hems, which will be museum-worthy in about ten years’ time.
Pillow neck jackets: There’s an undercurrent of fetish and utility to Lang’s work, and these airbag-like jackets don’t just look cool as fuck but are possibly the most 90s thing there is. In a good way.
Astro parka: Not our favourite piece, but this slim, tight parka featured a burst of fur at the hem and was repeated over a few seasons we believe. Correct us if we’re wrong…
More coming soon. Keep checking for updates!