FASHION NEWS

A Glimpse at the Revived Helmut Lang Thanks to the New Campaign Featuring Alek Wek, Shayne Oliver, and Traci Lords

The new campaign both nods at the cult label’s past, and looks towards its future—Oliver is the brand’s first designer in residence.


Ethan James Green / Courtesy of Helmut Lang

Your first look at the new Helmut Lang is here, and it’s here a lot sooner than expected.

Last March, the brand’s chief executive Andrew Rosen announced that the beloved brand, known for leading the minimalism wave of the ’90s, would be adopting an unorthodox new structure.

Rather than tap a creative director, Rosen instead brought on Isabella Burley, the editor-in-chief of London-based Dazed magazine, as Helmut Lang’s editor-in-residence, with a focus on revamping the brand’s digital footprint. In turn, Burley quickly tapped Shayne Oliver, the 20-something designer behind Hood by Air, to create a special collection of ready-to-wear and accessories, set to debut in September.

But it turns out, we won’t have to wait until New York Fashion Week to get a glimpse at the new Helmut Lang. Today, the brand released a new campaign to mark what is being called a “reset.” Shot by Ethan James Green, the black and white portrait series features a wide and varied cast, including the model Alek Wek, the former porn star Traci Lords, transgender model Dara, the artist and director Larry Clark, and Amariyanna Copeny, a 10-year-old better know as “Little Miss Flint,” who has served as the face of the Flint, Michigan water crisis. They are all dressed in Helmut Lang pieces spanning several recent collections, including women’s Fall 2017 and Resort 2018, and men’s Resort 2018, which was in part designed by Oliver during his residency.

It’s a refreshingly diverse group, for sure, but one that nods to the label’s past—Wek frequently walked in Lang’s runways, and the designer once made custom-pieces for Lords for a magazine spread—as well as its future—Oliver himself appears in one of the ads. It’s also a throwback to Lang’s first campaigns; similar black-and-white images which featured friends of the designer, such as stylist and collaborator Melanie Ward, posing alongside her brother and Anthony.

A Spring 2002 Helmut Lang campaign featuring Leslie, Melanie Ward and Anthony Ward, who took the portrait (far left).

Courtesy of Anthony Ward

The new campaign also reveals that the brand has revived its original logo, while teasing a new website for HelmutLang.com. There’s more to come, too, including a project called Helmut Lang Re-Edition that will re-issue heritage Helmut Lang pieces—a few of which are featured in the new campaign. Beginning in September, an initial fifteen items will be available, with more being added every four months.

Additionally, Seen By: The Artists Series, a year-long activation with twelve visual artists, will nod to Lang’s legacy of artists collaborations by re-contextualizing famous works of art as limited-edition posters and t-shirts, among other things. The first series, by Walter Pfeiffer, will be available in October.

Alek Wek and Dara appear in the new Helmut Lang campaign. *Ethan James Green / Courtesy of Helmut Lang*

And as for Oliver’s collection? The designer will officially be showing his collection for Helmut Lang as part of New York Fashion Week on Monday, September 11th.

All this underlines a question fashion geeks have been asking themselves since the label’s namesake exited in the early Aughts: Can there be Lang after Lang? For the answer to that question, and others around this cult label, watch this space in the coming weeks.

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Get to Know Ethan James Green, the Photographer Proving “Diversity” Isn’t Just a Buzzword

“Matthew, ” 2015.

“I first met David when he photographed me for his book 615 Jefferson Ave,” Green said of the late photographer David Armstrong, whose influence is evident in Green’s own portraiture. “For the first time I had found someone I wanted to be like,” Green recalled of visits with Armstrong that weren’t just for photo shoots, but “just to see each other and talk.”

Ethan James Green

“Brandon,” 2015.

It’s not hard to see why Armstrong and Green hit it off: Armstrong was, after all, the New York Timesanointed “photographer of subcultures,” and shared Green’s penchant for capturing the models, artists, and LGBT people that made up his downtown crew (which in Armstrong’s case included Steven Meisel, Patti Astor, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Philip-Lorca diCorcia and, of course, Nan Goldin.) “I truly cannot imagine where I would be without him,” Green said, adding that his biggest lesson from Armstrong was the importance of integrity.

Ethan James Green

“Rivkah and Amanda,” 2016.

Armstrong passed away in 2014, but at that point Green had already been shooting for years, having moved to New York for modeling—including gigs like a much buzzed about Calvin Klein campaign, and shoots for one of Armstrong’s buddies, Steven Meisel. Increasingly, though, Green was finding himself more comfortable behind the camera instead.

Ethan James Green

“Vejas,” 2015.

Logically, Green started with those around him, which meant everyone from fellow dancers at Up & Down to a still very much emerging (and teenaged) Vejas Kruszewski to a pre-Transparent and Alessandro Michele-era Hari Nef.

Ethan James Green

“Dara,” 2016.

Nef was hardly the only emerging talent Green seems to have discovered: last year, he also photographed the single-named model Dara, who may be unsigned but made her runway debut at Marc Jacobs’s equally inclusive Fall 2017 show just this past Fashion Week.

Ethan James Green

“Ser,” 2015.

Still, it’s clear fame is hardly what drives Green in scouting those he eventually casts, whom he chooses in an attempt to “to illustrate what I see out in the world,” rather than those typically showcased in editorials and on the runways.

Ethan James Green

“Torraine,” 2015

“Casting is a huge part of my work,” Green said, and something he’s involved with even now that he’s booking much larger-scale gigs, from cover shoots of Kate Moss to ad campaigns for brands as varied as Vaquera and Diesel.

Ethan James Green, “Torraine,” 2015.

“Ty,” 2016

For “Supreme Court,” then, his new editorial in W‘s April issue, James was just involved in the casting as ever—even though the shoot included no less than 18 models. “I was in heaven,” Green said of working with Edward Enninful, Jimmy Paul, Dick Page, and Piergiorgio Del Moro, who’ve not only inspired him through “countless images,” but also ended up sharing his vision.

Ethan James Green

Together, then, the crew came up with a cast involving everyone from the trans role model Casil McArthur to the twins Hector and Juan Carlos Diaz to signed Yeezy and Balenciaga models like Ralph Souffrant and Radhika Nair to Torraine Futurum, Green’s close friend.

Ethan James Green, “Mica,” 2016.

“Sam,” 2016

As for what’s next for Green? “I’m currently working on three different projects,” the photographer said. There’s finishing up his “Young New Yorkers” series, a section of which we’re showcasing here; continuing shooting “of the minute” portraits at anti-Trump protests in New York; and heading to LGBTQI senior centers to document their dances—in case you had any doubt Green was limited when it came to sticking with youth.

Ethan James Green
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