Austrian designer Helmut Lang left the fashion realm in 2005, but that didn’t stop him from drastically altering the direction of the overarching industry. From reinventing menswear and womenswear silhouettes of the ’90s and 2000s to utilizing a slew of unconventional materials, Lang was nothing short of an illustrious visionary. But his will to break away from the fashion industry at-large, effectually moving away from the concept of runway shows as spectacles, was a large part of what prompted his revolutionary hold on the luxury fashion realm.
In 1998, the famed designer “streamed” his fall/winter collection online, showcasing the range via 81 looks that were posted on the internet and through a uniquely-designed CD-ROM. Speaking to WWD back then, he noted that “this is a global business, yet the way we communicate is still very old-fashion in many ways.” He continued in stating that “we’re in the midst of a technological revolution. We all know it, we talk about it, but we have to live it.” In a new interview with WWD, Lang dissects his foray into the internet realm and reflects on his time as the titular label’s lead creative.
Speaking on his motivations behind the inventive showcasing, Lang shared:
The intention was not to be the first. I decided at the time to cancel the announced runway show, which was the first women’s and men’s runway show to be held in New York after I moved my headquarters from Europe to New York. The much-appreciated hype, which became nearly overwhelming, was consequently threatening the “séance de travail” presentation format I introduced in Paris in 1988. So I thought about moving it to the Internet and open it up even more, which meant including the end consumer in a more direct manner.
The designer also spoke on whether or not the experiment was successful:
I only remember that it was very successful, and that everyone, including our customers, had a direct impact in terms of what they wanted to see in the stores as the online viewing allowed them to become immediately familiar with the runway looks that would show up in the stores a few months later. They were demanding to be able to purchase the showpieces instead of edited selections by buyers, as was the case prior. Also, at the time, there was not that overload of in-between and pre-collections. What customers saw in the stores actually maintained the core identity of the brand and brought the actual runway clothes to the streets, as it was important for me to always treat basics, prêt-à-porter, high-end and couture pieces in equal measure as a mix within the collections.
I cannot remember how many CD-ROMs were distributed, and I don’t think we measured the traffic to the web site. CD-ROMs were only distributed to the fashion professionals we worked with on a continuous basis. At the time, it was more about introducing a medium without exploring or manipulating all its possibilities. People still very much liked going to stores and having that experience.
Lastly, Lang had no issue in sharing that he is still not interested in returning to design fashion collections:
That is something I am not thinking about, and it is a question which I do not have to dwell on. Although I am sure the entire industry is evaluating how the fashion system as a whole, and the presentation of it, will make sense going forward.
You can read the entire interview over at WWD here.
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