The long-limbed stride of Helmut Lang's tribe is a uniquely confident forward march. From their elegant coats to the tips of their high stalking heels, his women go out to meet the real world with a conviction that leaves retro in the dust. For starters, theyre prepared for the weather (a consideration strangely overlooked in many of this season's lady-crazed collections). His deep-dyed shearlings in saturated blues and purples, some chopped short into multi-flapped shrugs, others cut as lean raw-edged coats, made an instant, powerful impact. Pragmatism with a personal, cultured background: Now, thats a beautiful sight in these days of skimpy fashion thinking.
Lang didnt neglect to show that other item that's scarce on the ground this season: a mean-cut pair of the great skinny tux pants hes always done, now narrowed to meet high-cuffed drawstring suede or shearling ankle boots. If it's the perfect black trouser suit youre desperate for, hes your only man. And once daytime is dealt with, he has some of the most coolly brilliant options for evening, toolike a gorgeous, just-off-classic white satin trench and a shaggy cream goat-shearling coat belted with white satin. As sophisticated as these pieces are, they have an easy wearability that lifted this collection clear of the shredded, strap-manic complexity of some of Langs recent work.
When you buy into Lang's aesthetic, however, you're also complicit with his subtly coded subtexts. That could be the white lace edge on the brim of a thigh-high leather boot, under a short black dress with a suggestive frill of white petticoat. "Sort of a bit like an Austrian waitress, no?" the designer laughed, afterward. Langs Mittel European roots also account for the pleated organza twisted onto evening gownsfrom Hungarian folk costume, he said, just as the shaggy cream coat started life as a notion about Hungarian shepherd jackets. But none of these references were overt. Lang is too mature, and too sure of his touch, to resort to a one-note "inspiration," and this collection was as far from "folkloric" as imaginable. With its small details of delightfully irrational crazy-chiclike the pony-hair tail sprouting from the back of a pair of pumpsit qualified as a modernist high point of the season.