Fashion and design is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when asked to name Austria’s most successful exports, it's true. But there is one fashion designer who has made an undeniable and legendary mark on the fashion scene, not only in Austria, but the world: Helmut Lang. Helmut Lang is what one calls a ‘designer’s designer’, a fashion maverick who is considered both avant-garde and commercially sound. Although ironically, this ‘designer’s designer’ did not study design.
So forget Mozart’s classical music and Wittgenstein’s philosophical tracts, Freud’s psychoanalysis and cinematic talent ranging from Michael Haneke to Arnold Schwarzenegger; fashion, design and style can be found up there with Austria's greatest exports, drawn along by the cultured lines of Helmut Lang and his eponymous designs.
Lang, an autodidact, was a young entrepreneur who owned a made-to-measure studio and a boutique in Vienna before he even hit his 25th birthday.
In the Nineties, Lang moved towards a more luxe minimalism that leaned closer to Jil Sander, Calvin Klein and Prada, creating a characteristic Lang silhouette: slim and sharply cut, often in white or black, with details that referenced bondage for edge, or using hi-tech materials as an exploration of modernity.
During his time in New York City, Lang was the first fashion designer to ever broadcast a fashion show live on the internet – in hindsight, an impressive sign of his revolutionary approach to fashion.
In 2015, after having sold his company to the Prada Group in 2005, and staying out of public view, Lang resurfaced as a contemporary artist. He even used the burnt remains of his archive (destroyed by a fire in 2010) as material for his art.
Now owned by Link Theory Holdings, Helmut Lang – the label – still churns out the signature pieces the brand solidified its reputation with.
Minimalist and modern, these men’s and women’s collections, always shown in one runway show, are a precise balance between casual and formal, and elegant and subversive – a coolness now associated with the powerful creatives that populate the fashion world’s ranks.