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this cult japanese publisher is archiving your favourite designers

With a new limited edition tome delving into Helmut Lang’s archive, printings.jp are the publishing house you need to know.

by Liam Hess
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May 1 2019, 2:35pm

Courtesy of printings.pg

For intrepid shoppers looking to track down some of the rarest pieces of designer vintage that Tokyo has to offer, there is one destination (or, to be more precise, two) that stand head and shoulders above the rest: Laila and its sister store, Laila Tokio. With the original established in 2002 by Hideo Hashiura as a one-stop shop for fashion history’s rarest pieces, and the second in 2013 with a greater focus on the cult designers of the 90s, their gallery-like presentation and ability to track down some of the most elusive items -- see their pop-up sale last year of items from Phoebe Philo’s first Céline collections -- has made them one of Tokyo’s hottest retail destinations.

But in the heart of the world’s most technologically advanced city, Hashiura and Yamasaki decided last year to launch a new and decidedly lo-fi venture: a publishing house dedicated to documenting and collating the archives of cult designers. Kicking off last year with an epic two-part tome dedicated to Raf Simons, consisting of over 1,300 pieces from Simons’s collections dating all the way back to 1996, their latest book covers the career of everybody’s favourite minimalist Helmut Lang -- a notoriously tricky feat, given that the designer himself shredded and burned over 6,000 pieces from his archive back in 2011 as part of an exhibition.

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“It's always impossible to complete the collections of any designer,” printings.jp explained to i-D over email. “Of course, we couldn't find some of the key pieces that we wanted to include in the book, although we tried our best to have as much as we could.” It’s still an impressively comprehensive overview of Lang’s work: across 840 pages, it charts his career from the first presentation he showed in Paris in 1986 all the way up to his departure from fashion in 2005, following a mismanaged takeover by the Prada Group that saw the brand’s sales drop sharply.

Of course today, Helmut Lang’s signature aesthetic -- his use of synthetic and technical materials, razor-sharp silhouettes and raw, distressed edges -- is everywhere you turn. Lang’s ability to capture the spirit of anti-fashion that permeated 90s fashion and move it into the sphere of luxury, his knack for mixing high and low elements and his regular collaborations with contemporary artists are now part of every major brand’s vocabulary.

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Unlike the Raf Simons book, this time the rare pieces that were photographed for the book -- including rare denim pieces, tees, outerwear and the designer’s infamous harnesses -- came largely from Hashiura's personal collection. “By knowing Helmut Lang, I realised that the origins of many of today’s collections come from him.” Yamasaki adds. “Since then, I started to collect his pieces to find the essentials of his works.”

It’s this distilling of Lang’s sprawling archive to its essential parts, emphasised by the book’s appropriately minimal design, that makes this a must-own piece for any fashion obsessive. Hurry though: the book is strictly limited edition and sure to sell out fast.

1986-2005 is available to purchase from printings.jp .

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.