Helmut Lang (born March 10, 1956 in Vienna is an Austrian artist who lives and works in New York and on Long Island.
When he was five months old Lang’s parents divorced and sent him to live with his maternal grandparents in Ramsau am Dachstein in the Austrian Alps. When he was ten his father remarried and brought Lang back to Vienna to live with him and his wife. Lang moved out of his father’s house at the age of eighteen, and began to teach himself clothing design. A few years later he opened a made-to-measure shop in Vienna. In 1984 he closed the shop and two years later showed his first runway collection in Paris at Centre Georges Pompidou. In 1997 he moved to New York.
Lang used unconventional materials such as rubber, feathers and metallic fabrics and redefined the silhouette of the 1990s and early 2000s. He broke away from the runway show-as-spectacle in the height of the 1980s opulence and was the first to ever stream his collection online. As one of the most important designers of our times, his work left an undeniable imprint on contemporary culture and his influence continues to reverberate among the fashion community today.
Lang’s seamless relationship with art has included collaborations with artists Jenny Holzer and Louise Bourgeois. His recent works explore abstract sculptural forms and physical arrangements and space beyond the limitations of the human body. Lang had his first solo art exhibition ALLES GLEICH SCHWER at the Kestnergesllschaft in Hanover in 2008.
Lang has published excerpts from his ongoing art projects Long Island Diaries and The Selective Memory Series in a number of publications, such as BUTT Magazine, Fannzine 137 , Visionaire and most recently The Travel Almanac.
In 1999, Lang sold a 51% stake in his company to the Prada Group, with Prada running distribution and manufacturing and Lang controlling design and advertising. Afterwards, Prada developed a line of Helmut Lang accessories such as shoes, belts and bags, and opened Helmut Lang stores in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Helmut Lang is a cult figure and, despite leaving fashion in 2005, his legacy lives on. Everything he made carried his distinct fingerprint – from his jeans to his perfumes. He was hyper-attentive to detail and Viennese through and through – he was born there in 1956.
Having shown on the Paris catwalk once, Helmut Lang returned to Vienna until 1997, when he finally moved to New York. Austerity and cerebral couture have characterised his work throughout. He was one of the first designers to embrace the internet and, in 1998, broadcast his new show on it.
• Lang only decided to move into fashion after he failed to find the perfect jacket and T-shirt in the shops and was forced to make his own
• Prada bought a 49 per cent stake in the Helmut Lang business in 1999. Unhappy without 100 per cent creative control, Lang walked out five years later
• Since then the brand has carried on without him. In 2006, Prada sold it to link Theory Holdings Co, which hired design duo Michael and Nicole Colovos to explore Lang’s signature high-tech fabrics and modernist looks and colours – but, said Theory president Andrew Rosen at the time: “The door is always open for Lang if he chose to return”
In August 2008 an exhibition of his art goes on show at Kestnergesellshaft in Hannover, Germany.