NEW YORK — Like those of so many others, Helmut Lang’s show plans were thrown into disarray by the events of Sept. 11. In a controversial move, the designer who singlehandedly threw the fashion calendar into turmoil back in 1998, had intended to return to Paris this season. But after the attacks, this nouveau New Yorker thought it inappropriate to leave home. “To be here at this time is, I think, to make just a little contribution to the economy of New York,” he said then.
Instead, Lang opted for the techy approach similar to that of his first New York-based collection: online, CD-ROM and DVD, followed up by showroom presentations, the latter a must to view the clothes in all their street-wise, complicated glory. “I wanted to work with structures and layers and with accessory pieces to achieve a modern way to be ornamental without without using references from the past,” he said.
If it sounds lofty, it is — crossed with Lang’s brilliantly cool street chic. The designer’s clothes have always appealed to an intellectual bunch, but slipping into his intricate spring layers will definitely test the old fashion I.Q. In a cerebral game of peek-a-boo, the designer has stacked light cotton harnesses, gauzy sheer tops and straps that yoke neck-to-belt. The most gentle looks come by way of an airy dress in layers of what the Lang gang calls his “3-D molecular cell print,” and a doubled white tank paired with a skirt pleated so intensely that its nine meters of crisp cotton were bound to mere slivers. On the racier side, Lang showed a layered white knit dress worn over a cutaway skeletal bodystocking and pants with half-moon cutouts at their hips.
Cotton dominates throughout, with textural plays integral to the almost-all white lineup. Hence, the contrasts of rugged pants with the most ethereal of knits, and a number of looks that hint — ever so theoretically — at the seafaring life.
No, we’re not talking about bibbed sailor tops. Lang’s oceanic vision is a deeper one that includes softly scaled perch coats, shoes and bags, a theatrical skirt made from thick, glistening panels of stingray and net knits that suggest, not a life of sitting on the dock of the bay, but of a futuristic Atlantis.

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