If you weren't watching Next — the reality dating show which aired on MTV from 2005 to 2008 — you really weren't living. Each episode consisted of "daters" choosing and next-ing their potential love interests off an RV for a blind date, and each person entered on-screen with with a thoroughly unhinged introduction sequence that pointed out how and why they would obliterate their competition. It was crass yet so much fun, and the show's visuals made its impact on a generation of wide-eyed youths, like Helmut Lang digital editor, Ava Nirui.
Inspired by Next and its contemporaries like The Dating Game and The Bachelor, Nirui pooled from her IRL friends and acquaintances to reimagine a personal ad concept for Helmut Lang's pre-fall collection. The ads feature grainy, VHS-quality headshots that list off the 411 of a person including their interests, zodiac signs, and ages.
“I’ve always been super obsessed with the unique verbiage that goes with personal ads,” she says in a statement to Vogue about the photography project. “I recently had a realization that I’m constantly matchmaking friends and thought it would be fun to invite these friends and friends of friends to be a part of the Helmut Lang community, while potentially helping them find love in their lives.”
That's right, the personal ads are real and a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org will help interested parties get connected. If you're keen on the very relatable (dare I say universal?) topics of karaoke, dumplings and wanting attention, hit up 27-year-old Sandy. The project is a tribute to the frivolity of dating shows, as well as a nod to Helmut Lang himself, who had a knack for bringing his friends on board as collaborators. The personal ads are comparatively tame beside the Next contestants's proclamations, and are a rare case of nostalgia being used in its best form. See more of the campaign, below.