Helmut Lang is an Austrian fashion designer born in March 10, 1956 in Vienna known for his minimalist, deconstructive, and often severe designs. His parents divorced when he was 3 years old and he lived with his grandfather, a shoemaker, in the mountains behind Salzburg.
When he was 21, he had a fruitless search for perfectly made T-shirts and jackets. So he decided to design and make his own. Originally, Lang studied business, but switched over to fashion and opened his first studio in 1977.
He specialized in avant-garde clothing which disregarded convention. A 'deconstructionist', Lang works in an essentially urban style. He blends cheap and expensive fabrics and blurs the lines between traditional men’s wear and women’s wear.
His clothes were fairly successful in his native Austria, and he branched out to Paris in 1986. At the time in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, minimalist fashion was at its height, with Jil Sander, Giorgio Armani, and Helmut Lang himself being very popular and successful.
In 1998, he moved to New York. His 1998 collection was shown over the internet instead of physically.
In 1999 Lang entered into collaboration with Prada to open boutiques all over Europe and expand his line. He is now poised to become a major global marketing force, with a Jeans line, a perfume deal with Proctor and Gamble and a leather license in the pipeline.
Prada had acquired 51% of Helmut Lang's company in August 1999, and in September 2004, they took complete control by buying out the remaining 49%. It was announced that Helmut will continue as creative director of the company designing the clothes. Financial details were not disclosed.
In a surprise announcement in January 2005, the Prada Group who own Helmet Lang's company, informed of his departure from his own company. He has been considered a by-word for cool in recent years, and it appears his ideas for running his company were at odds with the Prada management just as Jil Sander's were when she left her own company recently. In March Prada announced that they would close the Helmut Lang showroom in New York. However Helmut is not yet down. He is talking to several major companies about the future.
After Mr. Lang's departure, Prada unsuccessfully tried to continue the collections with an in-house design team. In March 2005, Prada closed down the label's headquarters in SoHo, New York. In September 2005, Prada announced that production of the lines had been halted. By the end of 2005, all that existed of the brand was its name: the design atelier had been closed, the collections had been discontinued and all of the art-inspired Helmut Lang stores had been shut down (with the exception of the Paris location, to sell remaining stock). The corporate web site, which formerly displayed pictures of the collections, remained online, but the contents could no longer be seen.
On March 17, 2006, Prada Group announced that, after six loss-making years, Link Theory Holdings (LTH) of Tokyo would be acquiring the Helmut Lang brand for an estimated €20 million. This came about three weeks after Prada had sold the Jil Sander label to British equity firm Change Capital Partners (CCP). Already in spring 2005, it had been rumored that Prada was trying to sell the label. Prada Group was said to want to concentrate on its core labels, Prada and Miu Miu, again. The Japanese holding company LTH, developer of the theory fashion label in Japan and the US, re-launched the Helmut Lang collections under the direction of a "suitable" designer for the spring/summer 2007 season (presented in fall 2006), in select boutiques worldwide as a “contemporary brand".The new label was said to be based out of New York City. LTH also owns profitable German fashion house Rosner, which it bought in late October 2005, as well as the Joie, PLS+T and Kulson labels.
Rumor had it for a while that Russian-born designer Alexandre Plokhov of menswear label Cloak, a former men's pattern maker for fashion house Marc Jacobs, and winner of the 2005 Swarovski's Perry Ellis Award for Emerging Talent Menswear, might be the new designer for Helmut Lang. It was never, though, expected that Lang himself would return to the label that bears his name, although Chikara Sasake, president and chief executive of LTH, gave to understand that if Lang “wants to come back, the door is always open”.
In May 2006, it was announced that Michael and Nicole Colovos, an American-New Zealand designer couple, who formerly had their own Los Angeles-based denim label Habitual, had been installed by Link Theory as creative directors for the new Helmut Lang brand. From February 2007, select upscale retailers such as Barneys or Bergdorf Goodman carry the spring/summer 2007 Helmut Lang contemporary sportswear collection. The design office has been set up in West Chelsea in New York. The collection, described as "a commercial reduction of [Mr. Lang's] fashion identity",has received quite favorable reviews even though it is clearly not seen as a continuation of the original line. The item prices in the collection are about 20% above those for comparable Link Theory items and, hence, below the original Helmut Lang prices. Link Theory expects to generate US$ 8 million in revenues in 2008, and make a profit in 2009 with the label.The company also announced that "over the long term" they intend "to also establish exclusive Helmut Lang shops" in the US, Europe and Japan.
The Helmut Lang web site was re-activated at the end of 2006 and was fully launched in spring 2007. Lang, who now resides on Long Island of independent means, is said not to be involved in the re-launch in any way
All of the original, art-inspired signature Helmut Lang stores that existed in Vienna, Munich, Milan, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo, as well as several stores-in-store in the Asian market, that existed between 1995 and 2005 have been closed. The last one to close was the Paris location in 2005 to sell remaining stock.
In March 2007, Link Theory opened the first post-Prada signature Helmut Lang store in Tokyo's fashionable Aoyama district. In Japan, the company has since then installed several Helmut Lang stores-in-store at local department stores. In August 2007, a new freestanding Helmut Lang store was opened on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. It is, after the Tokyo store, the second signature Helmut Lang store since the closing of the last original store in Paris. The store, in close proximity to Melrose Place, is adjacent to an existing theory store at 8424 Melrose Avenue. Another Helmut Lang store opened on September 28, 2007 on Maiden Lane in San Francisco, in the building previously occupied by Jil Sander. In New York City, a temporary 'pop-up shop' opened in mid-December 2007, while the company is apparently looking for a larger location in the Meatpacking District.
The name Helmut Lang has become synonymous with the cerebral brand of minimalism that took the fashion world by storm in the late eighties. Lang's razor-sharp lines and high-tech fabrics are made for only the most disciplined of bodies - even his signature t-shirts, which elevated the clingy tee to couture status, are famously unforgiving (and famously expensive). He has a stark sober palette, often slashed with bright colour, which reflects a modern, even futuristic perspective. His cleverly thought out clothes are cleanly and precisely tailored, but in an exploratory, quirky manner. His fabric combinations reveal a forward-looking approach.