If you remember the brand in its 90s heyday, you can probably appreciate the tinge of nostalgic nods through all of the new Helmut Lang beauty looks. And you’ll especially love the small touch of logo nails, spelling out H-E-L-M-U-T-L-A-N-G on each finger, with clear polish – the new Helmut Lang manicure. For his Spring 2024 debut for Helmut Lang, designer Peter Do was clearly loving the 90s, the hopeful hustle energy of NY, and a tiny bit of nostalgia, creating a beauty look mix that encompassed the idea of going to the future, while referencing the past.
Do’s show notes featured an original piece by Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong declaring that “We were not born to die, we were born to go.” For go-go beauty looks, models wore a blend of 90s polish mixed with punky rawness, a nod to the brand’s heritage, without being too referential. “He has lots of ideas!” said manicurist Jin Soon Choi. Choi had spent the past few weeks in her lab creating custom nail polish shades for Do, who showed her references like swatches of pink and geranium fabric and the specific yellow of vintage Ubers a.k.a cabs (a subtle call to Vuong’s piece and a time when the brand’s sans serif used to flank the top of taxis). The shades were so new that Choi hadn’t even named them yet. The taxicab manicure used the mustard yellow as a base, with abstract stripe-y swipes of black (JINSoon Absolute Black) and white polish (JINSoon Absolute White) on accent fingers.
Makeup artist Daniel Sallstrom working with MAC, called out phrases like “not too pretty,” “not a cat eye,” “toughness,” and grunge, making the makeup the exact opposite of the trending beauty looks currently on TikTok. There were a variety of eyeliner designs, from a 70s punky rounded style to a straight eyeliner starting from the inner corner in an array of yellows, whites, and fuchsia. MAC Chromacake and MAC Acrylic Paint were used to give it almost a PVC like feel to the eyeliner, with lines as sharp as the tailored shoulders that Do favors (Sallstrom said, “like it’s been cut with a knife.”). His trick is to use a brush, many Q-tips to refine those edges, and to trace the line beginning from the inner corner of the eye. No foundation, mascara, blush, or concealer, kept the look “raw.”
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Hairstylist Jawara and Do looked at old runway shows and created a blend of hair concepts that were “cool, beautiful, chic.” Models like Lineisy Montero and Dilone kept their curls, while others had their hair blown out straight with multiple Dysons, and the crown gelled liberally with visible comb rake marks (thanks to a blend of Bumble and bumble. Curl Anti-Humidity Gel-Oil and Bumble and bumble. Surf Spray – another 90s throwback product). The combo of a gel mixed with the surf spray added a lot of grit to the hair, Jawara explained. Certain models also got special black headbands of varying thickness, cut from a jersey cloth that Do provided to Jawara. Some were tied with neat bows like shoelaces underneath low, but polished spiky buns, which Jawara laughably described as 90s knot but also “bird-nesty type things” that the team improvised and individualized for each model, and pinned with an array of bobby pins. Describing his mood at one of the most anticipated shows of New York Fashion Week, Jawara says, “It feels good, we are going to be good. Something new is happening, I don’t know what yet. But it feels good that energy is coming back.”
ELLE Beauty Director
Kathleen Hou is ELLE”s Beauty Director. Previously, she held the same title at New York Magazine’s The Cut. She’s appeared in publications such as New York, The New York Times Magazine, Vogue India, Forbes, and Allure. She was also a co-founder of Donate Beauty, a grassroots beauty donation project started during the COVID-19 crisis, which donated over 500,000 products to over 30,000 healthcare workers across 500+ hospitals.