The ready-to-wear namesake label Helmut Lang, widely known for pioneering minimalism, designer denim, and artist collaborations — recently took to social media in mid April to announce a T-shirt design contest to its 618k followers. Collecting design submissions from all over the world, submissions from individuals of all sorts looked to cover the plain t-shirt in true Helmut Lang fashion.The first-of-its-kind contest takes place amidst the global pandemic, with the brand urging contestants to create from home. The brand used the platform of Instagram to gather contestants and reach out to its fans. With three key rules forming the guidelines to the competition; rule 1 cautioned contestants to stay home, rule 2 requested contestants to create an original Helmut Lang graphic, drawing, or image, and the third rule asked contestants to submit the graphic via email by April 20, 2020. The shortlisted designs were decided by virtue of instagram likes to determine which T-shirt will go into production. The competition will award the top three artists with the most likes a chance to create an original design T-shirt and bag a $1,000 gift card to shop on Helmut Lang’s website.
The beginning of May marked the end of the month long competition and the top three finalists were crowned the winners of the competition on Instagram. They included 26 year old Jade Ayla from South Africa, 20 year old Max Peters from The Netherlands and 26 year old Christina Lehmkuhl from Germany. The winners were crowned from a shortlist of 14 final designs voted on by the Helmut Lang community. The designs were posted on Instagram in random order on the label’s feed, where followers chose the winners through likes, who would be the top three individuals with the highest amount of likes within 48 hours. Representing South Africa, 26 year old graphic designer, Jade Ayla presented the winning graphic illustrated on the plain white tee. The grunge meets graffiti graphic is placed atop the tee and reads: “LOOK MOM I DESIGNED A TEE FOR HELMUT LANG.” The style daps Helmut Lang’s 90s post-grunge, anti-luxury aesthetic that the label is most notoriously known for and adopts a sense of child-like spirit. The Cape Town born and currently Joburg based designer, is known for her combination of clean and modern design paired with organic elements – as she describes it. Taking first place, her graphic Tee had the largest number of likes within the 48 hour period of the contest thus helping her claim the prize. The designer briefly spoke to me about her process and creation.
LR: Hi Jade, to start off the interview kindly share with us your earliest memories/interaction with the brand? What kind of relationship do you have with the brand Helmut Lang?
JADE: I have always resonated with Helmut Lang’s unconventional, “less is more”, charismatic and candid approach to their designs and marketing. Connection with the brand proves easier than many others, seemingly unattainable, high fashion brands. I am extremely proud to have been able to represent South Africa.
LR: What creative and thought processes did you turn to for creating the graphic? And how did you come up with the title?
JADE: My greatest muse has always been my mother. The core drive behind all of my work purely stems from wanting a comfortable life for both of us. I noticed I could push my boundaries and design more in line with my true aesthetic when I left my 9-5 cooperate work and started freelancing 4 years ago. When entering the worldwide competition, I didn’t think I had much of a chance. I chose to approach it with more purity behind my concepts juxtaposed with my usual grungy approach to the text design in the hopes to stand out from what I expected to be a tough pool of designers to compete with. My mum was the muse behind the idea and she really does deserve some Helmut Lang. She has worked extremely hard to expose me to education and the support I’ve received to date even when it wasn’t in our budget, she made a plan. She is the hardest and most humble worker I know. Using the voucher I have won, gifting her Helmut Lang is the least I can do. She deserves to feel rewarded.
LR. Which fonts did you use for the lettering graphic on the Tee? And how would you describe the style used for the graphic?
JADE: Being a self-taught graphic designer, more often than not, I approach all work by hand before digitising. All text and type is my designs and was hand drawn initially and often my work is influenced by old school surfing and skate brands, graffiti and grunge.
LR: You worked in the Fashion industry for quite some time, with both big and small brands. Now as a designer, did you use the same mindset approaching the competition like you would with WL or any other brand?
JADE: Yes, I always start by hand, however, I do a lot of thinking and procrastinating before starting. I believe concepts play a very important role in design. It is one thing to make a design look good, but if the concept doesn’t fit, the visual falls flat. Thinking about the environment and time in which the brand operates and the kind of customers the brand appeals to – is something all designers need to be aware of. Designing blindly with no attention to external factors of the brand hand, will not have a much of an impact on the end result.
*For those looking to bag this fire tee, it is reported that Helmut Lang will produce the tee around mid June/July on official Helmut Lang stores.