Fashion: Helmut Lang has that bra-shaped handbag you wanted

  • Sep. 12, 2017 2:53 p.m.

NEW YORK — As New York Fashion week headed to a close, Shayne Oliver, guest designer at Helmut Lang, injected a jolt of energy into the proceedings with a raucous and sexy show that included leather bras of every kind, as in tiny leather “bralettes” and huge, brassiere-shaped handbags. The young designers at Oscar de la Renta seemed to be taking the luxury label in a more casual direction with denim and other relaxed garments. And Carolina Herrera, who showed previously at the Frick Collection, found another stunning venue for her runway show: the Museum of Modern Art.

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BRAS HERE, BRAS THERE, BRAS EVEYRWHERE, AT HELMUT LANG

These were not your mother’s bras. In reality, they were not anyone’s bras that you’ve ever seen — at least, not yet.

Visiting designer Shayne Oliver showed a raucous audience at the Helmut Lang show just how flexible the concept of a bra can be. Perhaps his most intriguing concoction: the bra bag, worn around the chest, but zippable at the top to form an actual functioning satchel. Of course it was worn outside the clothing — you could wear it underneath, but what would be the point of that?

Then there were all the teensy “bralettes” in black leather: strappy and sexy, sometimes barely covering the intended area — and sometimes, totally not trying.

Oliver, 29, is best known for his provocative streetwear label Hood By Air, which announced it was going on hold earlier this year and that Oliver would be focusing on his gig at Helmut Lang. He was hired by Isabella Burley, the label’s “editor in residence,” as one of a planned succession of guest designers creating capsule collections. (Lang himself left the label 12 years ago.) This collection was called “Helmut Lang Seen By Shayne Oliver.”

“It’s been crazy,” Burley told reporters backstage of working with Oliver. “But I’ve loved every minute of it.”

The runway show Monday night in SoHo included both women and men, and hardly seemed to differentiate by gender in terms of garments — a man could wear a corset or heels, just as a woman could. The runway was also not reserved for millennials: Kristen Owen, 46, a longtime Lang model, walked here, among other names from the past.

This being Lang, there was a whiff of bondage in many of the ensembles — leather straps and harnesses everywhere — but also an air of playfulness. By the time the techno soundtrack morphed into a finale of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” people in the crowd were whooping with glee. (That crowd was heavy with rappers and music figures like Cardi B, Offset of the rap trio Migos, Lil Yachty, A$AP Ferg and Diplo.)

Many in attendance, of course, were too young to have been fans of Lang himself in his heyday (the Austrian-born designer, now 61, is an artist living on Long Island). But Oliver said backstage that Lang’s influence on fashion remains strong.

“He taught people how to be sensual, in the right way,” he said.

—Jocelyn Noveck

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DENIM AT OSCAR DE LA RENTA?

There was a whiff of change at Oscar de la Renta, where new designers Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim presented a whimsical collection featuring casual garments like midriff-baring denim jackets and roomy windbreakers.

It also was what you would call a signature collection — literally. Many of the garments bore the signature, in various forms, of the label’s late, legendary founder, de la Renta — either in script, or even in large, sparkly letters spelling out his name.

“We’re celebrating him unabashedly,” Garcia said backstage.

The designers noted that the only time until now that de la Renta’s signature appeared on his clothes was on a gown that Sarah Jessica Parker wore to the Met Gala in 2014. It had been the actress’ idea to embroider his signature on the back.

Garcia added that he and Kim had updated the image of de la Renta’s signature after looking around and finding that “the signatures he actually left behind were much more legible, and true to his handwriting.”

The designers, presenting only their second Fashion Week collection for the label after taking over following the sudden departure of Peter Copping, began their runway show with a series of looks with a paint splatter motif. The theme even extended to the stiletto shoes: the heels looked like the stems of paint brushes.

New techniques used by the label this year included laser-cut leather, Garcia said, along with the denim, part of an effort to expand the clientele and the appeal of the brand.

But there was something for the traditionalists, too: Toward the end of the show came the red carpet-ready gowns that define the brand’s image, like strapless gowns in tulle with full skirts and even a ruby-dyed mink coat.

Guests at Monday’s show, held at Sotheby’s auction house, included Paris Hilton, Nicky Hilton Rothschild and Nicki Minaj. They were all getting a double dose of Garcia and Kim, having attended their show on Friday for the duo’s fledgling label, Monse.

— Jocelyn Noveck

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ART IN MOVEMENT, AT CAROLINA HERRERA

Carolina Herrera believes that fashion is “art in movement,” and so naturally one of her favourite places to show her clothes is in a museum. In the past, she’s taken her show to the stunning courtyard at the Frick Collection, and for this Fashion Week, she secured the sculpture garden at the Museum of Modern Art.

“I’ve been trying to do it for many years, and at last I could and I am so honoured to be here,” the designer said before Monday evening’s show.

The outdoor courtyard with its bubbling fountains served as the backdrop for Herrera’s chic garden party and ’80s-inspired collection.

“Being in the garden at the MoMA is one of those moments where, ‘Is this really happening? Is this real life?’ It’s so beautiful!” said Disney actress Peyton List, who sat in the front row alongside model Lily Aldridge, actress Michelle Monaghan and former “Teen Wolf” star Crystal Reed.

“I think this is the first time I’ve actually seen this garden at night, so I’m quite mesmerized by it,” Monaghan said.

There was gingham, and lots of puffed sleeves, big shoulders, colorful polka-dots and waists cinched with oversized bows. Sequins reigned supreme.

“This collection is all about colour,” Herrera said. “Color is very powerful and makes you think in a different way. Color makes you see things in different eyes.”

Herrera’s signature white blouse also made a runway appearance, this time with a deep V-neck, dramatic sleeves and a gingham wrap skirt.

But the designer eschewed her usual crisp white button-down in favour of a black ensemble.

— Nicole Evatt

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