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At Helmut Lang and Coach, a Debut and a Decade Later

On the first two days of New York Fashion Week, designers Peter Do and Stuart Vevers showcased their takes on storied brands.
Helmut Lang Spring/Summer 2024
Helmut Lang Spring/Summer 2024 (Getty Images)

NEW YORK — With the SAG-AFTRA strike stalling her cinematic career, Jennifer Lopez apparently had plenty of time to attend the Coach show, held in the soaring New York Public Library. Accoutered in a fringe western jacket, cowboy-esque boots and what were either tiny shorts or perhaps no pants at all, JLo, a global brand ambassador for the house, took her seat and watched as the first model, with delightfully messy hair and clad in a leather slip dress and worn boots, strode past.

Some of the models sported soft, oversized suits, the sort of thing you might wear if you were forced back into an office, a post-Covid directive that is being fiercely resisted by workers used to setting their own hours. If your boss relents, or if you decide to chuck the nine-to-five and go freelance, might you also dump your sweatpants and lounge around in a leather bikini covered by a lacy mesh dress? Stuart Vevers, Coach’s creative director, celebrating his tenth anniversary with the company, showed his commitment to this peculiar look — it turned up eight times on the runway and was shown on a wide range of physiques, some quite curvaceous since size inclusivity, another hallmark of American exceptionalism, has gained a serious foothold here.

Quotes from the writer Ocean Vuong decorated the floor at Peter Do’s debut for Helmut Lang, a much-anticipated event that added a welcome frisson of excitement to the first official day of New York Fashion Week. Most of these verses were in English, but some were in Vietnamese; Do was born in Vietnam and came to the US when he was 14. (A few notes of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue sampled on the show’s soundtrack put one ever so briefly in the minds of those other immigrants who first settled on the Lower East Side, long before the swanky building where we were sitting was built.) Before the show even started, there was a lengthy recitation of Vuong’s poetic musings in praise of Do — about being young, and assuaging one’s grief over a Singer sewing machine, and the liberating power of cars, especially for the gay community (but didn’t we all sneak off, regardless of sexual orientation?).

“We were not born to die, We were born to go,” the loudspeakers intoned, and go the models did, weaving through the rows and ending up as a flash mob at the end. If the casting was diverse in age, the shapes were uniformly slender, and they did look pretty swell, especially in the narrower silhouettes. Here were vivid stripes of colour, flashes in an otherwise somber black and white repertoire — a clear homage to Lang; a fuchsia sweater over a sheer dress likewise recalled Lang’s penchant for playing with transparency. But this wasn’t just a tribute band — Do also offered colourblocked jeans, and a perfect denim jumpsuit, and a leather pouf mini whose sobriety was relieved by its floor-sweeping sash. With his gift for cutting — those youthful hours hunched over the sewing machine were not in vain! — Do did a good job of making Lang’s signatures modern and desirable, but really, had they ever been otherwise?

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