Ikemen #37: Dominik Halas

May 03, 2018 12:00 PM

Helmut Lang rang in the new year with an unseen Re-Edition campaign and collaboration with Photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek (of the Exactitudes project), which featured avid Helmut Lang collectors and aficionados like Kanye West and Solange Knowles. Among the lesser known of the diehard fans shot in the campaign is Dominik Halas. In the grid of stoically-posed photographs, Halas appears adjacent to Kanye and was the only model shot in entirely (his own) archival Helmut Lang pieces– most notably, a seatbelt harness from the Fall 2003 collection. Before joining luxury consignment retailer TheRealReal, where Halas now serves as Men’s Expert, he worked alongside well-known stylist and archivist David Casavant. And hearing the story of how he became an allegiant collector of designers like Helmut Lang, Dior Homme, Saint Laurent and Yohji Yamamoto, Halas’ enthusiasm seems to almost materialize in conversation and makes obvious the fact that the Re-Edition campaign is indeed not his last appearance in the limelight. The ardent, now fashion consultant, collector and merchandiser sat down with TWELV to share his upbringing, hopes for the future, and– naturally– some of the most prized pieces his growing archive. Excerpts below: 

  

How did you become interested in fashion?

It starts with my parents. We are from Slovakia, a very traditional Eastern European background. Growing up, I always I had to have my hair short. They were very strict, but when I hit 12 or 13 years old, I started to figure out who I was, and I wanted to take different interests in things I hadn’t been exposed to, like literature, film, music, and part of that experience was the clothing I wore. My parents had always chose what I wore, and the one rule was that I couldn’t wear black. So, of course, I was going to wear all black. They didn’t like to spend money on clothes. So, I was going to like expensive things. My mom brought home a copy of the New York Times men’s fashion magazine, the Fall 2007 issue. I was going through it and saw a lot of stuff I liked. Prada, I really liked at the time, and that’s when I saw Dior by Hedi [Slimane], which I really fell in love with. Helmut Lang, too.

What do you think drew you to those designers?

I started mixing in influences from literature. I was reading a lot of Honoré de Balzac, very much things about society. His book Illusions Perdues had a big effect on me. It was about these two young men from the countryside who moved to Paris, and were trying to acclimate themselves to high society there, and to be real gentleman. It was so cool to me. I was going to go and do that, and make myself what I thought a real man or gentleman should be. 

The reason I was drawn to Hedi in particular— His clothes have always been about giving men this allure and seductiveness that women’s fashion usually has. There’s something so classy about how a sophisticated woman dresses, holds her cigarette, or talks, and no one really did that for men. Hedi did that, but he did it in a way that was for young people. That really drew me in. 

When did you start collecting past seasons?

I started buying and reselling a lot of clothes to finance my own purchases. I would buy a lot from Japan and resell it here. After a while, certain collections really spoke to me, and so I started buying them just to have them, not to wear. Then, I interned for Robert Geller, which was great. He really taught me how to design, how to think like a creative person, and how to pull references, which I loved because I was studying art history at Brown. Then, I worked for David [Casavant], which was taking all these pieces, some from my own collection, and looking at how designers can reinterpret them. So, I started collecting more and started renting out my own clothes, and building out a business from that. 

Tell me a little about what you’re doing now.

I’m Men’s Expert at TheRealReal, which means I’m on the men’s merchandising team there. I’m launching products on the site, making sure the prices are right, the copy is right. That’s my day job, but I do consult still, and rent out my collection. I mainly work with Helmut Lang on their Re-Edition line. I name all the pieces and date all the pieces, and was recently in the campaign.

How did the campaign come about?

I’ve been working with them for a while now. My friend Helen Wu is a designer at Helmut Lang, so she would always ask me, “Do you have this? Do you have that? Can we rent it from you?” But they reached out to another friend of mine who’s a big collector too, and they asked him to put together a list of people for the shoot, for the Re-Edition line. He hit me up and said “Let’s make this list together, of the real Helmut collectors in New York.” So, we did that. Then, they emailed me and asked if I could come in for a test shoot, and 2 days later the actual shoot happened. They asked me to bring a bunch of my stuff, and I was actually the only model wearing solely all my own pieces, entirely vintage Helmut.  

And you’re right next to Kanye. 

When I saw it, my initial reaction was just laughing very hard. Because to me, it’s so surreal. I know myself, and I know it all just started from me not having friends in high school and being on the internet all the time. 

What’s your favorite piece from your collection?

I can’t choose just one. Top five, maybe. But one thing I do love is these Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche gloves by Hedi from his Fall 2000 collection. They are super classic leather gloves, silk lined, top quality, but they are cut diagonally across the palm. It’s really classic and sophisticated– like sleek and sexy, but also really classy. You can’t find something like this. Definitely top five. 

Besides that, probably a lot of my Yohji [Yamamoto] stuff. One pair of pants from Spring ’95 has a Koi fish embroidered on them. I think it’s so funny, because he put the koi just to the left of the zipper. For me, for something to be really amazing, there has to be some sense of self-awareness and humor, because that humbles it somewhat. A lot of people nowadays get too post-modern and find too much humor in irony when it comes to clothing.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Well, it wasn’t directly to me, but in the movie Oceans 12, Reuben– the old guy with the sunglasses– tells another character that “Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.” My whole life, I’ve been somewhere between a pessimist and a realist. And ultimately, you need to have some utilitarianism in the mix. That quote made me understand that it’s good to be realistic and not get your hopes too high, but you need to at least approach everything positively, and look at it as an opportunity. 

Would you ever consider designing your own collection?

I definitely want to do my own line at some point. I think the current fashion landscape is extremely problematic. It doesn’t incubate actual creativity. Too many people are focused on pop, trendy designs, so I don’t think it’s the right time for me to do something with design. But that’s totally fine to me, because I don’t think I have enough experience yet either. If I’m going to do it, it has to be right from the beginning, and has to be true to myself from the beginning. It has to be provocative, and new, and lasting, but most importantly it needs to make people feel something.

 

INTERVIEW BY HOLLIS DE LANEY 

 

PHOTOGRAPHY: JESSE ADWAR (Photo Assistant: Thomas Lauria)

Helmut Lang Re-Edition Campaign: Courtesy of HELMUT LANG

 

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