Alexander Wang kicked off a trio of name-in-lights shows happening in New York this week. When he went rogue in June, presenting his Spring 2019 collection three months ahead of the rest of the American industry, he was a definite outlier. There remains a question of whether it helps or hurts a designer to be removed from the heat of New York Fashion Week, but now Wang’s got Versace and Chanel for company. He made an event of it at the former Williamsburg Savings Bank in Brooklyn tonight, with a Champagne-and-caviar pre-party and a boldface guest in the form of Sophia Robot who posed for front row pics.
The collection picked up where his June show left off. That one was an examination of his Chinese-American roots and his status as an immigrant. It mashed up chinoiserie with Axl Rose bandanas and punk safety pins. This one, Wang said, was a “celebration of the American hustle. We’re taking stereotypes of class and wealth and trying to remix them, giving status symbols a new sensibility.” The impulse, he explained, was equally related to his upbringing. He grew up a private school kid in San Francisco, a radically different experience than that of his older siblings. “There was always a question of where I fit in.”
This played out on the runway as a fusion of uptown and downtown elements, some of which blended more successfully than others: sherbet-color tweed suiting accompanied by black leather apron skirts, camel coats topping boxer shorts, or T-shirts paired back to tuxes. Icons of the upper crust—tennis sweaters, rugby shirts, and polos—were tweaked with asymmetric cuts or unlikely materials like safety pins. Brass W buckles looked like a play on Hermes’s famous H. As for the leather and leopard-spot garment bags that many of the models wore slung over their shoulders, Wang said they were inspired by images of 1980s career types toggling between the office and the health club. They’re unlikely It bag contenders. But Wang does have a way with denim—see: the peeled-over waistband jeans, which looked coolly relatable with boxy blazers and bankers’ button-downs.
So, where does Wang fit in? It’s been roughly a dozen years since he emerged, a downtown wunderkind with a flair for cool. Now, he’s in experimental mode, arguably out front in his efforts to align customers’ emerging habits with the industry’s old systems. But writing your middle chapter isn’t always easy. Was he trying to tell us something with a series of ’80s-ish shirts that spelled out pain? Who knows. The pleasures of this collection were those jeans and blazers, and the sleek, deconstructed tuxes and tees.