Judging from the small talk at previews, over cocktails and dinners the past few days, the state of the world is weighing on designers, executives, pretty much everyone. The pileup of problems, from Gaza to Ukraine, the U.S. immigration crisis, impingement on racial equality, women’s equality, climate change and the changing weather…it’s enough to make one want to crawl in a hole and disappear.
The idea of protection was central to the Helmut Lang collection, Peter Do’s second on the runway since taking over as creative director of the label last year. And the clothes, some almost dystopian-looking, feel right for the moment.
Do explored several ideas from the archives, starting with the opening white bubble-wrap shirt and pants in a new fabrication reworked from Lang’s original from the early 2000s. It was a cooler take on sheer dressing that also managed to feel secure.
“What makes Helmut Helmut is to embrace duality. So control versus chaos, protection versus sex appeal,” the designer said in a preview, adding that he was inspired throughout by the concept of the subway shirt, the oversized garments that women unfortunately have to wear to protect themselves against harassment on hot days, or when they are out at clubs wearing very little.
The theme of protection was woven into Do’s all-gender new urban tailored uniforms of side-slit and side-zippered coats, padded utility vests and knit body-con dresses with padding inspired by astronaut suits.
Treated denim, woven leather (after the cheap checked shopping bags that have inspired endless designers), and scale-like textures elevated everyday pieces like jeans, leather pants, shirt jackets and knee boots. Scarf panels on silk blouses, hoods that won’t mess up the hair on bombers and face shielding collars on double face wool coats were among the thoughtful details.
Tailoring, most of it all-black, had a futuristic militarism with waist-shaped blazers and coats buttoned to the neck, long trouser skirts and cargo pants while concealing high-collar sweaters were key pieces for cover and comfort.
There were other moments of softness, too, including a fab glossy clutch-front mustard yellow nylon parka and sidewalk skimming jersey skirt, or the cement-colored shearling coat, twist jersey top and pants modeled by Ahn Duong.
Overall, the collection was more assured than Do’s first effort, and more focused. By simplifying the runway choreography, paring back prints, text, added buckles and straps, he created a tough new uniform for tough times.
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