Representing the creative future

A love letter to Helmut Lang’s Eroticism

A fashion student's tribute to the erotic references of Helmut Lang

We rant a lot. We know. We can’t help ourselves! So, to make sure we never forget about the delightful joy of fashion, we asked you to share what made you fall in love with it – from tiny crushes to full-on fetishes. This week we are exploring the hidden references between the historic work of Helmut Lang.

Words Alexis Lopez Angeles

Helmut Lang’s influence on the contemporary fashion scene is undeniable, from Raf Simons telling Alexander Fury he would happily only wear Lang’s work, to Shayne Oliver reimagining his work for Hood By Air and later having a short but outstanding tenure at Helmut Lang. Often when talking about Lang’s work it is in relation to minimalism, but rarely in how he translated contemporary sensuality and sexuality to fashion.

The word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, which is the personification of love in all its aspects—born of Chaos, embodying creative power and harmony. However, as the great feminist activist, Audre Lorde describes in her work The Uses of the Erotic, “ We have been taught to suspect [the erotic]. To vilify, abuse, and devalue it within Western society.” Lorde is describing how the erotic has been misnamed as pornographic by men and utilised against women and the queer community. In Lang’s work, the notion of eroticism is introduced in many ways from subtleties like trims of lace around the armhole of a basketball tank top, which could be telling the story of a friendly basketball game that ended in between the sheets, to more obvious references in minimal jersey tops that mimic the structure of vintage fetishwear.

It’s evident that Lang saw the erotic as a source of power and information by blurring the lines between the ‘private’ and the ‘public’. However, Lang did not invent contemporary eroticism as this resource has always existed within humanity in a deeply female and spiritual plane. What Lang could have possibly done in his historicist design practice was to draw inspiration from 1920s fetishwear imagery (it is hard to ignore the visual link between the sensual photographs of Roger Schall and Brassaï commissioned by the French fetishwear company Diana Slip.)

The Helmut lang universe is there to defend and celebrate the eroticism within our own work. As we get closer to a world of flattened affect, we must continue to go against the ascetic position ‘one not of self-discipline but of self-abnegation’.