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Helmut Lang menswear SS04via

Mike the Ruler's five defining fashion moments

The young style guru takes his pick of sartorial history – from Helmut Lang's early noughties bondage to Hussein Chalayan's infamous robotic dresses

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence, we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to take over Dazed for a day. Today, as part of our State of Fashion week, Mike is taking over – with a little help from his friends. Hit up the Mike the Ruler Day page for all the latest, including exclusive playlists and Mike's five fave US designers.

He might not even have been born when Rick Owens started his label in LA, or when Calvin Klein campaigns were killing it with young waif Kate Moss, but that doesn’t stop 14-year-old Instagram sensation Mike The Ruler from having some favourite moments from recent fashion history. Mike chose these five serious style situations because they inform his outlook on fashion today. They’re all united in their iconic nature, be they Hussein Chalayan techno-looks or Helmut Lang in his own-label twilight years. Mike might mostly rock contemporary menswear, but clearly he has an appreciation for fashion that comes in other guises, from different times.


One of Britain’s most conceptual designers (he’s Turkish-Cypriot by birth) created a series of robotic dresses that changed shape, colour and style thanks to micro-chips and animatronic technology. A Victorian dress morphed into a flapper dress, another went from the silhouette of Dior’s New Look to Paco Rabanne’s modernism. Chalayan is a maverick whose shows continue to wow jaded fashion fans with their playfulness and invention. See also: his dresses that double up as furniture.


When Helmut Lang the label was run by Helmut Lang the man (before he left in 2005 to become an artist), there was no surpassing his cool currency. His iconic bondage-inspired pieces in 2004 came in clinical white, stark black and various metallics, but were saved from being pastiche sex gear by the fresh, sportswear references. Biker jackets came with straps and detachable kilts, and cut-out vests revealed toned abs and nipples. Clothes you wanted to tear off. 


Rick Owens launched his label in LA back in 1994, but it wasn’t until 2001 that his otherworldly aesthetic hit the spotlight. Investment helped him grow the brand, then he gained notoriety when Kate Moss wore one of his leather jackets in an editorial shoot with Corinne Day. Recent shows in Paris have seen such feats as the Estonian death metal band Winny Puhh performing whilst hanging from the ceiling, and the much-heralded step team “grit face” show in October 2013, which challenged race and body issues in the fashion industry.


Whether they were for Obsession, CK One or the brand’s underwear, Kate Moss’s campaigns with Herb Ritts for Calvin Klein in the 1990s were a vision of the minimal, pared-down look that dominated the decade. There were crisp and clean solo shots, as well as sexier campaigns alongside Marky Mark, Jamie Dornan and a cast of varied hipsters, mostly shot in black and white. The strength of the brand’s identity came in the campaign’s sheer simplicity.


Considering the awesome, spooky spectacle of Carol Christian Poell’s “Mainstream Downstream” presentation in Milan for men’s SS04, it’s a wonder the label isn’t more famous. Models were sent floating down the city’s Naviglio Grande canal (presumably buoyed by hidden floats), like a bunch of well-dressed corpses, or modern-day male Ophelias. Injections of blood red in the outfits only added to the sense of the macabre.