"The Byronesque motivation for Helmut Lang was his contrary approach to the trash glam style of the time that made NYC cool again," explains Gill Linton, CEO and editor-in-chief of contemporary-vintage shopping app Byronesque. "Helmut might not see it like this, but he somehow flipped the bird to the fashion machine with poise and precision detail."
As part of Selfridges Project Earth, this week sees Byronesque team up with the vaunted London retailer for a 1991-2005, 40-piece Helmut Lang archive sale that would stop any grail-hunter in their tracks. When it comes to archival fashion, you could say that — according to a traditional line of thinking — Helmut Lang and Raf Simons get pulses racing like no other (we can talk about the implications of their controversial "re-issue" collections another day).
The demise of the Helmut Lang brand ever since the designer turned his back on fashion in 2005 is well documented, meaning the influential pieces released under his watch have taken on an almost sacred quality (a fire that ripped through through Lang's New York studio in 2010 destroyed much of his own archive). From Kanye West's favorite splatter-style jeans to Liquid Sky-era midi dresses, plenty of the good stuff is here and available to shop. "I think everything Helmut did was a signature because he somehow broke the mold every season," continues Linton. "For us, the obscure peepholes and straps matter most."
Propped up by second-hand sellers and social media wheeler-dealers, the last few years have seen archival fashion emerge from the sidelines to become a fully-fledged world unto itself. But for Linton — who formed Byronesque in 2013 — the overall mission is much bigger, like the idea of how a wardrobe built with love and care can serve as an antidote to the outmoded monster that is seasonal consumerism. Her company preaches the Vivienne Westwood maxim of "Buy Less, Choose Well," urging people to look beyond impulse purchases and instead invest in something special that lasts.
"We live in a culture of extreme waste and not enough creativity, where lip-service to sustainability gets more headlines than the pursuit of longevity," says Linton. "Even rental and resale, in our opinion, supports a culture of disposability. We hopefully inspire people to buy unique things and wear them a long time; which is very different from selling clothes that are classic and timeless. The latter won't move creativity or culture forward. That’s the equivalent of fast fashion, it just keeps us going around in ever-decreasing creative circles."
Last month, Selfridges launched its five-year Project Earth plan, a major sustainability initiative that sees a revamp in terms of labeling, in-store events, and re-selling initiatives. For Linton, the opportunity to join forces with the luxury purveyor was a no brainer.
"Retailers ask us to be their 'sustainability bitches’ a lot, but Selfridges is putting their money where their mouth is, with an intention to be the most sustainable retailer by 2025," Linton explains. "When you look at their plan to make that happen, it’s not marketing bullshit. It’s very precise and includes cutting out wasteful and environmentally harmful products from their buys. Not many, if any, retailers have made that kind of real commitment."
Check out the Langevity sale with words from some of the other sellers and private collectors here.