Since arriving in New York in 1999, Helmut Lang has set about proving that he's not like other designers. His flagship American store was created by trendy Gluckman Mayner Architects, known for turning industrial spaces into art galleries, and it feels a little like an exhibition space. In the entrance area, a single display rack is surrounded by three giant black eagles; further inside, the clothes are hidden behind gray metal walls; a Jenny Holzer electronic-koan-ticker blinks in a corner.
Since Prada took a majority stake in the business in 2000, however, access to such hipness seems to come a little cheaper--no bad thing when what you're paying for is an almost secretive luxury. Lang's genius is in the details, particularly in the men's line, where a superficially ordinary pair of trousers usually turns out to contain some kind of cool, vaguely hi-tech hidden pocket. Favoring synthetic fabrics and bold cuts, his is a clinical aesthetic: high fashion that ordinary people can wear.