Backstage at Helmut Lang's Fall 2019 collection, the first under new creative director Mark Howard Thomas.

Helmut Lang didn’t just pioneer the biggest trends in fashion today—distressed and deconstructed streetwear, technical workwear and transparent fabrics, nude as a wardrobe-anchoring color—he also changed the way they were presented. The Austrian designer streamed his Fall 1998 collection on the internet before Neopets even existed, and threw the fashion world into meltdown mode when he decided to show in New York instead of Europe, inadvertently changing the fashion month calendar forever. Since re-launching in 2017—surprise!— Helmut Lang has continued to casually uproot conventions, tapping Hood by Air’s Shayne Oliver as ‘guest designer’ and dropping campaigns in the form of zines and dating ads.

Helmut Lang’s Fall 2019 collection, presented in New York last night, marked a genuine, hype-free return to the brand’s roots. Helmut’s new creative director is Mark Howard Thomas, who works under the editorial direction of Alix Browne, and has a modest 2K followers on Instagram. Thomas tapped into Helmut Lang’s utilitarian roots while offering a polished alternative to today’s plethora of sportswear. Relaxed tailoring was inspired by the wardrobe of artist Joseph Beuys, and arrived in fabrics spanning from grey wool flannel to scarlet tuxedo silk. Latex-look leather and delicate translucent pieces were straight from Helmut’s 90s heyday, updated for the streetwear generation. Denim is also sure to thrill longtime Helmut stans. Thomas Cawson, the brand’s creative director of denim, delivered a range of genderless silhouettes in Italian indigo and stonewashed denim. Turns out Helmut Lang quietly spent the last year relocating key parts of its textile development to factories in Italy, and in-sync with the brand’s city-hopping history, it definitely paid off.

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