It takes a certain mindset to invest with attitude anything as potentially sweet as an organza mini skirt in palest peach and dove grey. In Paris, that is what the Austrian designer Helmut Lang did yesterday.
His models were urban angels, their layered and pleated attire suspended from reflective silver harnessing and worn over layers of dark stretch clothing so that, despite an ultra-sexy silhouette, barely an inch of naked skin was exposed.
This is very Lang. His secret lies in the play between the extremes of modesty and eroticism. So black opaque tights cut-in with suspender detailing were worn over a second pair in navy: the clichéd flash of flesh at the top of the thigh was suggested but even the most lascivious might blink and miss it entirely. Signature wool tailoring – the naval peacoat being the most obvious example – came with panels across the front which could be worn open to expose a skintight black jersey beneath or closed to a far more strict and androgynous effect.
There were low-slung short skirts with ribbons of fabric fluttering about them – the softest take on S&M the catwalk is likely to see. Equally highly charged were drainpipe trousers with corset lacing down the leg and strips of elastic across the bottom. And that was just for the boys.
Lang was one of the first designers to show men's and womenswear on the same catwalk – it is a far more modern way of proposing new ways to dress than separating the sexes. But with Lang there is no posturing, no elaborate backdrop and certainly nothing as hackneyed as pausing to strike a pose for the cameras. Instead, like an army of immaculately dressed beautiful people, Lang's models storm about so fast that the photographers at one end of the catwalk, whose job it is to capture them, barely get a look in.
Lang returned to the Parisian catwalks last season after showing in New York where his company had been based for almost five years. It is good to see him back. More perhaps than anyone else working in the industry today, Lang serves as a welcome reminder that designer clothing can be sexy without being compromising, that it can be luxurious while still being contemporary and cool.
And this was very cool, from the unforgiving white lighting to the requisite celebrity sighting. The front row boasted Roman Polanski in pride of place – a fashion first if ever there was one.
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