Last month, it was announced that the forthcoming London Fashion Week would merge its menswear and womenswear shows for an online event. In terms of events, this is a first for the wider fashion industry while livestreams of individual shows have been occurring for the past several years. But for eponymous designer, Helmut Lang, it was nothing too new, in fact, the brand was the first to do any such advancement in 1998.
Since 2005, the Austrian design left the industry and his namesake brand which has continued without his involvement for 15 years. But in a new interview with WWD, Lang returned to the fashion scene if only momentarily to look back at the moment he streamed his runway in the late ’90s. The designer was known for revolutionising menswear and womenswear silhouettes, infusing a sense of industrialism and unconventional materials into his designs. This is visible in his Fall/Winter collection of 81 looks where using old-school CD ROMS, he revealed the runway.
“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,” Lang told WWD.
“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.”
He also revealed why he decided to do it this way, saying it was not to be “first” but for other logistical means.
“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.”