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2000s fashion men – Helmut Lang

April 24, 2023

Helmut Lang’s impact on the 2000s fashion men wore has been considerable. He is a designer and artist who first presented fashion professionally in 1977. By the 2000s he was at his peak and  his trademark minimalist slim suits were worn by creatives around the world, and the twists, such as motorbiking padding details, became ever-popular fashion trend. However, in 2005 he actually retired from fashion to concentrate on his art, although the label lives on.

Helmut Lang was born in Austria on the 10 March 1956.


He was untrained in fashion when he set up a made-to-measure fashion studio in Vienna in 1977, at the age of 21. This was followed by a boutique in the city in 1979. His clothes were as much art as fashion, and by 1986 he was being shown as part of group shows. One notable exhibition was at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, in 1986, entitled “Vienne 1880-1939: l’Apocalypse Joyeuse”. It was an initiative by the Austrian Government, and scheduled to co-incide with, though not an official part of, Paris Fashion Week. It must have been an amazing experience, as the designer then moved to the city and launched a label under his own name there.

Unique Talent

His vision was always singular and he did not follow the herd. It was important to him that his work was high quality, and he didn’t stint on good fabrics. He also explored high-tech fabrics, but not to the detriment of the purity of line. It could be austere and intellectual, and was certainly minimalist. The lines were sharp and the cut extremely precise, resulting in very elegant garments.


Some techniques he used were layering of translucent fabrics, the use of holographic and wet-look fabrics, lacquered silks, latex-bonded lace and pure sterling silver trousers.

2000s fashion men and women together

Helmut Lang jumpsuit, 1999. Image copyright free via Flickr.

Helmut Lang jumpsuit, 1999. Image copyright free via Flickr.

In 1987 he launched his men’s collections. From then, his catwalk shows had male and female models on one catwalk, mixing the collections and pre-dating current trends by quite some time. He called his collections and presentations séances de travail (“working sessions”).

2000s fashion men – Catwalk Shows in Paris and New York

Initially he showed at Paris Fashion Week, until 1998. In 1997 he moved to New York and started showing there in 1998. He also set up a website that year, and live-streamed his show through it, three days before the catwalk presentation before a live audience. Lang then moved his runway shows to well before any of the fashion weeks, because they were timed very close together. He didn’t want audiences to have to choose between seeing his collection or going to Paris or Milan, it was better that they had a chance see everything.


Other designers in America followed suit to match him and eventually New York Fashion Week itself was moved to a date 6 weeks earlier. From 2002 to 2005, when the company was under Prada, the catwalk shows went back to Paris.


The number of his boutiques increased worldwide and he was also stocked in upscale department stores and high-end retailers.

Unconventional Advertising

His advertising strategy was unconventional: New York Taxi cabs carried ads from 1998 to 2004, and National Geographic Magazine also carried some very unusual print ads from 2000.


The brand also diversified into footwear in 1990, underwear in 1995, and jeans in 1996. Helmut Lang created four different fragrances. The first, a women’s perfume, was simply called Helmut Lang. It was launched in 2000. The year after that, in 2001, he launched one for men, Helmut Lang Pour Homme. The same year a limited release for both genders, Helmut Lang Velviona, came out. And finally, Helmut Lang Cuiron, for men, came out in 2002. The main three continued to be produced until 2005.

2000s fashion men – Beautifully Designed Stores


Helmut Lang storefront. Image via Flickr, copyright free.

Helmut Lang storefront. Image via Flickr, copyright free.

Helmut Lang’s original stores were beautifully designed, by himself in collaboration the New York firm Gluckman Mayner Architects. The core concept of the buildings was minimalism, of course. They were located in Vienna, Munich, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Milan, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo, as well as several stores-in-store in the Asian market. Gradually they closed down. The final closure was the one in Paris, in 2005.


It is not easy to own and run your own fashion label, and in common with many other designers the Helmut Lang label was acquired by the Prada Group, who took a majority stake. This occurred in 1999. But it seems that the pressures of a large company making what are probably business, rather than creative decisions, also takes it toll. In 2005 Lang sold his remaining shares to Prada and left his own company. He made a statement to the effect that he had no quarrel with, or bore no ill-will towards, the management. A year later Prada sold it to fast retailing subtitling subsidiary Link Theory Holdings.


Helmut Lang’s fashion work is held in many collections around the world. These include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Fashion Museum in Bath, and The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, also hold his pieces.


He has also been given many awards, including CFDA’s Best Designer of the Year, in 1996, and GQ’s Designer of the Year, 2004.

2000s fashion men – A Brand Relaunch

The brand was relaunched, with new designers in place, in 2007. By 2017, the design team and structure of the label was changing again. Isabella Burley was the editor-in-chief of Dazed Magazine. Instead of a designer or even a chief designer being appointed at Helmut Lang, Burley was appointed the “editor-in-residence” of the brand, as well as remaining in place at Dazed. She did appoint a designer, Shayne Oliver, who had been the Hood by Air founder, to create the S/S 18 collection, shown at New York Fashion Week in September 2017. Following that one-off collection, Mark Howard Thomas was appointed creative director, still in 2017.


By January 2018, a new “editor-in-residence” was announced. Alix Browne replaced Isabella Burley.

In the meantime, more stores have been opened and the clothing is again sold in department stores.

It is a complete contrast to the men fashion sported by stars like Justin Timberlake when he went out with his then-girlfriend Britney Spears. Bape hoodies, Von Dutch trucker hat, popped collars, cargo pants, bootcut jeans, punk fashion, geek chic, skinny jeans, baggy jeans, oxford shoes, low rise jeans, studded belts, flare jeans, were all in at the same time as 2000s fashion trends, courtesy of differing brands like Alexander McQueen and Juicy Couture. But Helmut Lang offered something unique.