10 years from now when we consider how the internet altered the nature of fashion and of art, full respect needs to be paid to Helmut Lang. When he designed clothes he approached the practice with the process oriented diligence of a great artist, a commercial artist yes but an artist none the less. This is why his simple but razor sharp tailoring, his collaborative procedure with the likes of Juergen Teller, Elfie Semotan and Melanie Ward and his ability to build such a beautiful conceptual sphere around his sensibility is often imitated but never duplicated. It is easy to copy his forms but not that rigorous intelligence.
There was a massive erudition in Lang's understanding of light, space, architecture, graphic design, sexuality and sensuality , presentation and packaging all as part of the cumilative mythology necessary to activate a brand. Much of that mythology was cliches made complex (imperial eagles, blue jeans, disco-balls,tank tops, bourgeoise tailoring, techno music) and the fashion market was so caught up with Helmut Lang-the hot commodity- it missed out on seeing the great creative quality of mind driving and torquing those cliches (eagles, blue jeans, disco-balls,tank tops bourgeoise tailoring, techno music) into something timeless and infinite.
Perhaps Helumt Lang was too discrete and private to display that motive at the time but a decade later the quiet revolution of those ideas are being explored by a new generation like Rick Owens and Nicholas Ghesquiere. In the way that Rei Kawakubo revolutionized clothing as conceptual practice and retail as installation and performance, Lang is the great father of a digital idea of fashion. This could be seen in his early forays at helmutlang.com, especially in his live streaming of his runway shows in the 90's.
Lang is also a pioneer in reconfiguring his name from being a mass market fashion commodity to being a small and private art practice. That interplay between exclusivity and democracy , between the abstraction of of an idea and its physical expression as form is the base of Lang's greatness in my mind. I love that he put the image , such as the one above in the public domain, prefiguring the strategies of Hedi Slimane in building an internet-only body of work for his photography. I adore the genorosity of that. It is as if to say -the product is proposed to you as a luxury, expensive and restricted-but the idea behind the product is free and available to everyone. Such a great quality of mind is truly inspiring.