A New York–based men's clothing designer, Oliver is a long-long time friend from yesteryear. His website – designed by "Domingo de Santa Clara" (also the "bcn" of the NeoKufia page): [currently on haitus] – features his unique approach to haberdashery. I hope some day his site features the wide variety of his collections to date, which are inspired by some unusual themes. "Previous collections include water-soluble clothing, extremely flammable clothing, and garments accompanied with their own soundtracks." 

Herein, a video of "The Accelerated Decay Shirt," from the Fall/Winter 2001 season, "Collapsing New Buildings." (4 min., 10.5mg; mp4 file | wmv file [requires Windows Media Player]; video credits)

Oliver hints at his Spring 2006 collection in an interview in PAPER magazine.

A previous season, "inspired by British '70s glam and punk rock," had its debut featured in the March 2005 issue of SOMA Magazine:

Text and photos by Ruvan Wijesooriya

DEEP IN EAST CHINATOWN, boys as pretty as girls keep the misfits company as cigarette smoke lifts and chatter persists outside 47 Monroe Street, home to the Oliver Helden showroom. Walking up the stairs, past the Chinese brothel on the first floor and the grow-room on the second, past the hubbub of blow dryers, makeup artists, ashen-faced models and scurrying assistants buzzing about minor fashion emergencies, lands you in the textiled fantasy of Oliver Helden's squatter runway show. This is the other side of the spectrum, light years away from the champagne-doused shows of the Bryant Park Tents, where the likes of Donna K, Bill B and Michael K hold court year after year.

It has been said – and proven – that anyone can be a designer at Bryant Park if they have the money. After some mild haggling, international marketing giant IMG charges $30,000 for use of a tent for a few hours. That, combined with production, marketing and labor costs, adds up to nearly $100,000. "We put our show together for around a grand," Helden says, chuckling under his breath.

Helden created the collection, inspired by British '70s glam and punk rock, during breaks from his day-job as a designer at Marc Jacobs. Without a conglomerate parent footing the bill, Helden faced the challenges of putting together a DIY fashion show: no budget, renegade style.
Pieter Schoolwerth
Pieter Schoolwerth

"With a little arm twisting I was able to get everyone to work on the show for free and in trade for clothes," says Helden. "Fortunately, a handful of extremely talented people like the clothes and ideas, otherwise pulling off this show would have been impossible." Apart from a few professional models willing to work for clothes and exposure, the majority were random friends and people cast off the street. The production team consisted of an event producer, stylist, DJ, architect and a make-up team from MAC Cosmetics, all top-notch talent. The invites were all screenprinted by hand, the pro sound system was lent to them for the show. "Other than postage, the only thing we paid full price for were the daylight-balanced lights. We just couldn't fudge on that one and have the photos and documentation end up looking, um ... cheap," laughs Helden.

"After scouting locations for the show and every venue being a minimum of $1000 for the day plus hundreds extra for insurance, the mindset of squatting became even more appealing and almost romantic," he continues. Helden grew up listening to bad music for bad people and adopted the rebel ethos early on, so the building's sketchy history as a crackhouse was just right for his punk rock–inspired show. "It was rented to a guy who moved in during the summer, but stopped showing up in October when he found out that the space didn't have any heat. He stopped paying rent, too, and just had a mattress – hardly anything in there, really. So even though he left some of his stuff there, I felt it was a pretty safe bet that he was never coming back. It was a kind of shady decision but it felt appropriate for the collection, being that it had been uninhabited for three months and the place was accessible via the fire escape."

Twenty-four hours before the show, the guy resurfaced. With invitations printed and delivered, Helden and company began to freak out. "We could hear him walking around upstairs," says Helden. He went upstairs to talk to the unwelcome neighbor, and asked if he could rent the space the next day. "I talked to him through the door because he wouldn't open it for me," says Helden. "He seemed okay with the idea of us renting the space and gave me his cell number, telling me to call him the next morning and he'd let us in. I heard him go out that night but he didn't come back. The next morning I called him and he didn't answer. I left messages for him every fifteen minutes or so and he never returned my calls." By the afternoon, the production staff couldn't wait any longer. "We ended up breaking in just like we originally planned. We built some temporary walls with drywall and some backdrops with huge rolls of paper. An hour before the show started I told the two people working the door that if the upstairs guy came back, to tell him that he wasn't on the guest list and not to let him in." 

By this time, the crowd of editors, buyers, hipsters and stylists was growing rapidly. The sound system was blaring Bowie and Adam Ant, chairs were set up and the lights were on full force. Nearly 180 people crammed into the hallway, their heads bobbing as they tried to catch a glimpse of Helden's creations. Amazingly, the show popped off without a hitch and a few hours later, everything was moved out of the apartment, leaving no trace of the day's debacle. "By 9:30, the space looked like nothing ever happened. I was still in my studio at 3 a.m. when I heard him come back that night," says Helden.

The next day, the show was deemed a success. Despite its distance from the other Fashion Week activities, the turnout was spectacular, replete with familiar faces from New York's downtown fashion scene. In the afternoon, Helden's girlfriend/partner, Susan, saw the "upstairs guy" in the stairwell. He looked at her and asked, "Hey, did you guys ever have your fashion show?" When she said yes, he replied, "Where did you end up doing it?" After a pause, she overcame her nervousness and said confidently, "Upstairs." The guy looked at her for a few seconds, and eventually uttered, "You've got balls."

My niece, Goblin, making friends


Oliver recently joined forces with like-minded friends to form a collaborative men's line, LODEN DAGER, which has quickly garnered its own attention. 

"Men should be keeping their eyes open for new label LODEN DAGER. It's as if Beck, Steven Alan, and a young, hip trustafarian got into a gene splicer together and out came this collection. Overall, it's stylish without pretension, classy without all the snobbery, and perfect for any casual outing." (GenArtPulse.com)

"The New York label generating the most sizzle made its debut — fittingly — on a boat called the Frying Pan. The photographer Matthew Sandager, along with the designers Oliver Helden and Paul Marlow (who have worked with Marc Jacobs, among others), created LODEN DAGER with two other partners as a solution for men in search of classic casual clothes with a modern tweak. The moniker is a mix of the designers’ surnames, just as the collection is an amalgam of their personal styles. Mordant wit + downtown cool + erudite references = light V-neck cashmere sweaters; slim-fitted, well-proportioned corduroy pants; and versatile canvas jackets. 'We are so not cutting edge,' Sandager says. 'We simply outfit boys who love books and bicycles.' Aspiring Wes Andersons, rejoice. Available at Barneys New York and Ron Herman in Los Angeles." (Article by Cator Spark, NEW YORK TIMES Style Magazine, September 17, 2006) 

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