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The Decline and Fall of Helmut Lang

Luc-Emmanuel

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In like of the retail developments in the past 5 years, that was probably one of the biggest miscalculations in recent fashion history.  Many more major designers, from Gucci to Ferre, have jeans regularly in their collections, and some (Dolce & Gabbana) present them as the centerpieces of some of their collections - to great success.  This not to mention the proliferation of "premium denim", which has APC, Evisu, and Helmut Lang as benchmarks.
This is not what's been written in the article, and it's not really what happened either.
What Prada did was to rationalize HL distribution (retail spots), significantly reducing HL denim coverage. This is a typical "luxury conglomerate" approach : reducing the number of licensed products, reducing the number of retail places in order to strenghten the brand and stress the "exclusivity". This is the contrarian approach to the all-licensing, effectively dumping loads of logoed craps, which was taken by YSL or Pierre Cardin in the 70s. Think Calvin Klein maybe for the US.
This approach leads to greater markup because of the sense of exclusivity you put in the brand by scarcity of retail places.

So, to buy an HL jeans, you actually had to go to the helmut lang store. And believe me, unless you're a tourist and don't give a shit, it takes balls to step into Paris Helmut Lang store just to get a pair of denim...

For this approach to actually work, you need many "flagships" stores, in highly selected places : tokyo comes to mind.

Strategy :
- remove licensed products from the market (denim in that case)
- rationalize retail places
- produce in-house or via group factories (prada owned)
- significantly raise retail prices (not mentionned in this article, but helmut lang stuff just skyrocketted in the last 3-4 years)

It didn't work. Part is because HL was too much of a niche brand, part because Prada didn't invest enough money to open enough flagship stores around the world to sell.

That's my vision of HL fall.

.luc
 

Geowu

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My opinion Helmut Lang is not the kind of glamour highly exclusive brand to have taken that approach. It is kind of alternative; practical (at least minimal, which goes against glamour); niche, not like the public image of Louis Vuitton to start reducing places and raising prices. It was a dumb approach for Helmut Lang, because he doesn't have the personality for it. He is like of never show up on events and kind of against fame, plus doesn't care much about public image. So the brand has not the profile to have taken that 'exclusivity' approach. Of course it's easy to say after it happened.
 

Charles Rogers

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I really liked his fetish inspired stuff- I hope someone else is inspired by those facets of sexuality and I can someday own a pair of jeans with kinkey-chains over the fly- like Lang made.
 

v0rtex

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I really liked his fetish inspired stuff- I hope someone else is inspired by those facets of sexuality and I can someday own a pair of jeans with kinkey-chains over the fly- like Lang made.
Me too. Helmut Lang was one of my first forays into high-fashion, coming out of a goth/punk phase. I still frequent quite a few rock and other alternative clubs, and the quality of most of the bondage-style gear is very poor (SDL, Omen, Lip Service, etc) although the designs are often compelling.

Some of Donatella Versace's collections and Vivienne Westwood (the original and still the best) seem to cater for the well-heeled pervert about town... Any others?
 

Mike C.

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Me too. Helmut Lang was one of my first forays into high-fashion, coming out of a goth/punk phase. I still frequent quite a few rock and other alternative clubs, and the quality of most of the bondage-style gear is very poor (SDL, Omen, Lip Service, etc) although the designs are often compelling.

Some of Donatella Versace's collections and Vivienne Westwood (the original and still the best) seem to cater for the well-heeled pervert about town... Any others?
Galliano, JPG, CDG, make some off the wall stuff as well.

Galliano, all though the stuff is freaky, is surprisingly wearable.
 

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