New York’s forceful designer catches the zeitgeist in a post-Weinstein world…
Cool young women in smart outfits with silvered trimmings seemed to be aiming for an intergalactic office in their metallic high-heeled shoes. For Alexander Wang had taken a radical turn away from last season, when his models arrived in Brooklyn in a bus while his audience and crowds of fans were left in bemused chaos.
For Fall 2018, Wang, 34, showed to a limited audience in the former Vogue premises on Times Square, with a collection that seemed to have a more grown-up attitude. The metallic decorations on short, sporty outfits took elements from the designer’s past shows, but with a reality check. Out of the night club and into the office.
Significantly, Wang included an element of self-reflection, looking back to his Far East roots by opening the show with a variety of Asian models. The fact that he hid these faces behind blanked-out eye glasses was another twist to the story.
“Everyone knows the celebratory side of me – but, you know I am in my thirties right now and I go to work probably more than I go out,” said the designer. “I feel very blessed being around powerful, influential and smart women and my executive team is mainly women. It just felt very timely that I did a collection that was really inspired by all these powerful women.”
That might sound like political correctness in a post-Weinstein period. Wang’s urge to show women in “fab-letics” (sporty clothes that looked ready to go to a party rather than the gym) was a strong part of the story. But – if you envisaged leg warmers filling in the spaces between thigh and ankle – the designs were relatively office friendly. Tentacles of silver zippers gripping the midriff at either side added an inter-galactic touch. But the words ‘CEO 2018’ suggested serious intent.
“Whether it’s my mum or female CEOs – women that we dress – I wanted this collection to cater to all aspects of their lives,” Wang explained. “Whether it is dressed up or dressed down, staying in or going out, I wanted to have that restrained discipline. Especially after last season, I wanted this to be a very focused collection.”
The result was just that – no radical change of direction, but a way of showing the short skirts and silvered bodies that brought them from the club scene to everyday reality. Although that might mean leaving the dance floor at dawn and then, by closing the front zipper on a black leather mini skirt, making it fit for subway and office.
Even without Condé Nast populating the area, but with the flamboyant desk of former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter still on the premises, Wang caught that feeling of fashion on the cusp of change – while keeping to his vision.
As I had a rare opportunity to talk to the designer before the show, here are a few of his thoughts.
On the post Weinstein era…
“It just felt very timely to design to a movement. It is not something that I have done before. Usually in our collections, I try to find an escapism. But it felt right and responsible to do a collection that really raised a conversation. Whether they are my friends, women I work with or women that inspire me – it’s a conversation that feels relevant and it’s important to really highlight and reflect that.”
Referring to a tailored black coat…
“I love working around the anatomy of a women, the hips, bust, the darts and highlighting it all with zippers. She is tough in the sense that we were playing a lot with ‘CEO’ as a graphic or having credit card details laid into knitwear or embroidered onto silks. So, there is still a playfulness, but it is definitely something which is more grown up. I’m in my thirties now – it’s time to look forward and evolve and that is really how I wanted this collection to speak to you.”
On the choice of location…
“We are at 4 Times Square and this building has a lot of sentimental meaning to me. I started my career when I first moved to New York in this building – interning at Teen Vogue and at Vogue and I just remember always being around these incredibly influential, directional, powerful women.”
“In fashion, I have only known women to be powerful and have all the top titles and I wanted to bring it back to this building and it felt like it was the correct collection to do it with.”
On women and power dressing…
“For me, it’s about breaking down the stereotypes. A ‘Wang Woman’ always dresses for herself first and foremost – whether she is dressed up or dressed down; tough or playful; successful or sensual – it is always for herself.”
“By showing power dressing and doing tailoring I didn’t want it just to be like that – I wanted it to feel she can show a shoulder or wear lace. But that does not mean she is going out to find the attention of a man or a significant other. It is blatantly about her commanding her own attention.”
On the digital age…
“I’m like a sponge. I’m constantly looking and listening and challenging myself to learn about what is next. I like to think that I’m looking forward. Right now, innovation is key. I’ve always felt that I’m open to new ideas and willing to change and to adapt. There is no denying the influence of social media and how technology is rapidly changing our industry. It is something I welcome with open arms.”
On his Asian roots…
“We have always had a very diverse casting and in this collection about 40 per cent of the models are of Asian cultural background. The first 10 looks are all shown by Chinese, Japanese and Korean women. I really wanted to represent my culture and where my background is from.
“I’ve been doing a lot of trips going to China in recent years and it’s definitely been a huge part of our business and our growth as a company.”
“There is no denying I have felt the connection grow much deeper. So, this really felt the right time to bring a spotlight to models of my origin and give them this opportunity.”
What is the Asian spirit?
“They are all so different but there is something quite mysterious – maybe because they do feel quite unknown. You don’t really have a big Asian supermodel today and hopefully that will change. And that we can bring more awareness to Asians that are in music or entertainment or the fashion business. I like that there was a mystery about them. That is exciting to me.”