ARCHIVAL HELMUT LANG FROM ENDYMAOften, when fashion shifts its focus to the future, it can feel more like a high-tech carnival than a functioning vision of the decades to come. One designer who was never complicit in this fantasy was Helmut Lang. This is not to say he wasn’t a futurist (he was), and it is not to say he wasn’t a visionary (he was), but what will forever set him apart was his unfaltering practicality. Although he was showing collections in the late 1990s that included spacesuit-inspired shimmering silver bomber jackets alongside zipper-happy bondage pants, it never felt false, contrived, or unrealistic. The astronaut Buzz Aldrin was even shot in the designers’ Astro Jacket from 1999 — and despite his old age, he looked perfectly cool and comfortable in the piece.
Lang was often labeled as a minimalist, and it is true that he frequently spoke through his design details rather than through bold fashion statements. He opted to create tension by layering gauze over technical fabrics, or by adding slits to the elbows of ribbed knits, rather than drastically altering silhouettes or adding violent bursts of fabric or color to the exterior of the clothes. He is one of the very few designers to truly invent his own visual language, and there were certain bits of that vocabulary he always returned to, such as the use of hanging straps, deconstructed base layers, and translucent materials. In addition to his singular garments, he was a revolutionary in many other ways as well; he was the first to stream one of his runway shows online, and made bizarre and beautifully democratic gestures such as advertising in National Geographic and on top of yellow cabs.
One individual deeply moved by Lang’s contributions to fashion was Michael Kardamakis, owner of Athens-based fashion archive ENDYMA, which has now become the foremost commercial collection of Lang's work. Kardamakis has brought a large selection of pieces to 190 Bowery, where a section of the basement has been morphed into what can only be described as a shoppable survey of some of Lang’s most iconic creations. Many of the garments, all of them in pristine condition, will live alongside detailed information about their conception, offering a rarefied opportunity to see, touch, learn about, and potentially buy bits of the timeless fashion which continues to inspire designers and artists of all types — starting April 19.