The man may have departed from the fashion house bearing his name half a decade ago, but Helmut Lang's continuing influence over fashion is undeniable. Phoebe Philo's Céline put his name back on everyone's lips as first point of reference for her Reductionist redux, and designers have evidently been taking a good hard look at (read: stealing every look from) his late-nineties shows. If Lang was an undercurrent for A/W 2010, for S/S 2011 the New York collections have sent it overground. The shows so far seem a roster of Lang's greatest hits - check the clean spare shapes, techno fabrics that pretend to be nothing else (and a few that insinuate they're a bit more techie than they actually are), slashes of neon and above all white, white, white.
What is all this about then? I myself have often wondered how designers could continue the revival roundabout of the past two decades into the nineties, given the decade itself was largely comprised of rehash. There's some satisfying Baudrillard-ean paradox of reviving a revival, but in the real would what could it actually yield by way of interesting, and more importantly saleable, clothing? Reworking Lang's back-catalogue, often said to be outside of fashion, makes sense. Taking a different slant, it is hypothesised that in times of economic crisis designers tend to turn to simple classics or the faux futurism of Spocky space-age all-white to rebel against the built-in obsolescence of fashion.
New York's new wave has lead the way. Prabal Gurung splashed neons across clinging mid-calf tank dresses in technical mesh, Ohne Titel did terribly clever things with chopped-up neoprene and a few Alaïa-alike knitted skater skirts, and the hottest hot ticket of them all, Alexander Wang, offered a collection dominated by white and drawled with Arte Povera scribbles. Think of it as an update on those paint-splattered Lang jeans we lusted after fifteen years ago: the models even had whitewash-caked hair.
We're barely four days into the week, but the most compelling iteration of this future fantastic feeling, for me, came from Joseph Altuzarra. The man took a risk - think outerspace Out Of Africa, Neil Armstrong meets Veruschka and any other conveniently pithy phrase to denote his collusion of sixties, space age and tribalism with a healthy dose of French chic. The results were undeniably up and down, love or hate, often walking that fine ugly-beautiful divide. But that's exactly what made them so exciting. Altuzarra confessed to me earlier this year that he reads the often vitriolic comments posted in The Fashion Spot's forums - no doubt he is blushing at the disservice already dealt to his pointed breast-cups, as reviled as they are revered. No matter, credit is due for Altuzarra's willingness to test the boundaries and chafe at restrictions in a season that already seems profoundly safe. I for one will jump for joy if I see any woman wearing his savagely chic snakeskin cone-bra - bravely pushing her breasts where no breasts have gone before.