Style Helmut Lang’s subversive campaigns

Helmut Lang’s subversive campaigns

Andrea Tuzio

Forerunner of the times, Helmut Lang has anticipated trends not only with his work as a designer but also, and perhaps even more emblematically, with the advertising campaigns of his brand.

Born in Vienna in 1956, Lang opened his first boutique in his hometown in 1978 and presented his first collection at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1986.
His minimalist, essential, deconstructive, and “severe” style has always been reflected in his advertising campaigns that we could define as almost subversive, counter-marketing.

After moving to New York in 1997, Helmut Lang became the first designer ever to advertise his brand on a taxi, a choice that at the time seemed like a dangerous gamble, a bold move that upset the canons of fashion advertising. It was an incredible success and in fact, made Lang a pioneer of street advertising.

The focus of Helmut Lang’s campaigns was almost never the garment itself, but the aesthetics of the brand, the product was a consequence of a philosophy and an idea that was more important than anything else (this type of approach has become a constant, think of realities like JJJound who based all his work on aesthetics).

To best express this approach, Helmut Lang has always relied on the most important and appreciated fashion photographers, such as Juergen Teller for the Spring/Summer 2004 campaign and Chris Rhodes for the Fall/Winter 2017 “balloon” campaign.

Another fascinating way to give an idea of one’s own style was to decontextualize and recontextualize the work of great artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and his self-portrait from 1975, which was used by Lang for the Spring/Summer campaign in 1997.

In more recent times things haven’t changed, for Pre-Fall 2018 for example with the “Matchmaker” campaign, the brand presented products worn by amateur models and photographed in “ad” style with their names, type of work and a little nod about personality. The people photographed were New Yorkers looking for a soul mate and thanks to the email address [email protected], you could get in touch with them specifying who they were interested in.

Helmut Lang as a brand has always tried to innovate and go beyond stereotypes in every field and, through his advertising campaigns, he shuffled the cards in a game that had perhaps become stale.

Written by Andrea Tuzio
Listen on