Do was referring to the brand, but also the man, whose departure from fashion 2005 slackened the label’s once-strong pull. Since then, the namesake label was purchased by Uniqlo parent company Fast Retailing in 2009, and it went through a series of creative reboots that never quite made the case for Helmut Lang’s place in a rapidly evolving fashion world. Do has a clear-eyed vision for how to resurrect the name’s relevance. “Things have been so complicated recently” in fashion, he said. “I feel like there’s something so non-fussy, straightforward, and honest about the clothes that Helmut made, and that is something that’s been missing.”
Do, 32, discovered Helmut Lang where many of his generation did: on Tumblr. Born in Biên Hòa, Vietnam, Do moved to Philadelphia with his parents at the age of 14. A love for fashion, cultivated on the internet, led him to FIT and then to the Céline atelier where he worked under Phoebe Philo. He launched his own namesake label in 2018, which stepped into the post-Philo void for clean, luxurious daywear for women with impeccable taste, and which soon caught on with men like Moses Sumney and Jeno from NCT. His fascination with Lang’s work developed in parallel with his career. “When I first discovered Helmut, I think I was too young to understand the depth of his work. But I think as I get older, when I start my own brand, I understood more and more of it,” he said. He began referencing Lang in his collections for Peter Do.
His sharpest takeaway was the abiding connection so many Helmut Lang heads had with their garments, thanks to the designer’s obsessiveness with fabric quality and the tiny details he sewed into the clothes—a hidden trouser zipper pocket, for example—that only the wearer might notice. “What I like about Helmut is the way people talk about the clothes that they own, the clothes that they wear. The parkas and jeans that they wear for a long time.” When he interviewed for the job earlier this year after the brand got in touch, Do wore a good-luck charm that exemplified this long-lasting and almost emotional relationship people used to have with the label: a pair of “very dirty” white Helmut Lang jeans. “When I bought them, they were already vintage, and I still wore them all the time for 15 years,” he said.