Alexander Wang has defended himself against some serious allegations that are sexual in nature. Will his brand survive these personal charges?
Alexander Wang in a publicity shot to promote his collaboration with Uniqlo. Photo: Uniqlo
Note: this post contains potentially offensive language and descriptions
Alexander Wang’s autumn winter 2020/21 collection was not presented on a runway. In fact, he announced a year earlier that he was giving the live show a miss, in favour of a massive party that he’s known to throw to celebrate the brand’s 15th anniversary. Last September, photographs of the thirty-nine-look collection were sent to the media. The clothes, as styled, were as party-ready as ever. Amid the still-raging pandemic, they were a dispensable reminder of a time when clubland was very much alive and throbbing. These would, no doubt, have delighted the ever-loyal party animals of the high-profile Wang Squad.
But now, chatter among the gang has been, “did he or did he not do it?” For the past weeks, Mr Wang, 37, was accused by at least eight male models—and, curiously, trans—for non-consensual, sexually aggressive behaviour, and, following that, passing straight vodka for water and offering the alcohol as a “party trick”, according to the singer Florence Welch and the writer Derek Blasberg, YouTube’s head of fashion and beauty partnerships. Although there has been talk much earlier of Mr Wang’s supposed indiscretions that the media noted went largely under the radar (accusers unidentified), one explosive allegation did emerge two weeks ago.
According to a British model/graphic designer/fashion stylist, Owen Mooney, 26, Mr Wang had groped him in a night club, back in early 2017. The indecent sexual advances allegedly took place during the monthly gay rave, Holy Mountain, hosted by the Canadian DJ/events producer Ladyfag, at Slake, a mid-town Manhattan (predominantly) gay dance club known for its hip-hop and EDM playlist. Slake was operated by the legendary New York club Webster Hall; it closed permanently at the end of 2017. During its heydays, Slake welcomed revellers to, as one review stated, “explore the twisting labyrinth with three floors of mystery and debauchery.” It’s in such a setting that the alleged violation occurred.
The alleged victim of Alexander Wang’s unwelcome advances, Owen Mooney. Photo: Owen Mooney/Instagram
Mr Mooney, who has 5,666 followers on Instagram (vs Mr Wang’s 5.5 million) and, in one post in 2015, called himself a “cuntry boy”, revealed the details via TikTok in a form of a (Q&)A: “I was by myself at one point and this guy next to me obviously took advantage of the fact that no one could fucking move. And he just started touching me up. Fully up my leg, in my crotch. It made me freeze completely because I was in so much shock.” Mr Mooney did not immediately extricate himself from the invading hand; he wanted to identify the perpetrator. “Then I look to my left to see who it was and it was this really famous fashion designer and I just couldn’t believe that he was doing that to me. It just made me go into even more shock. I just had to slowly move myself away.”
Mr Mooney did not, in that TikTok post, reveal who the molester was. One of his followers offered a name, and Mr Mooney continued with another post, in which he said, “…and turns out, Alexander Wang is a massive sexual predator. And there has been loads of people he’s done this to… he just needs to be cancelled.” Although he had posted before the big reveal, “Craving those sweaty nights out. Can’t wait to dance again”, the incident affected him massively. “Now, anytime I see his name mentioned, or I see him with celebrities and, like best friends, and whatever, like… it just reminds me of what he did, and it’s just a fucked-up memory to have.” Not long after, Shit Model Agency, an IG account that is touted as a “safe space 4 models”, shared Mr Mooney’s post, as well as other anonymous allegations that recounted supposed spiking of drinks with MDMA (a psychoactive drug) and sexual assaults. Just as quickly, Diet_Prada, with a following of 2.4 million, including industry leaders, too, shared, six days ago, a compilation of the charges, titled “The Internet is exposing Alexander Wang’s history of sexual harassments.” It was the holiday news to digest.
In response, after a brief silence, Mr Wang and his lawyers provided The New York Times a statement. “Over the last few days, I have been on the receiving end of baseless and grotesquely false accusations,” it stated indignantly. “These claims have been wrongfully amplified by social media accounts infamous for posting defamatory material from undisclosed and/or anonymous sources with zero evidence or any fact-checking whatsoever.” There was no addressing of Mr Mooney’s TikTok self-disclosed posts.
Probably off to or emerging from a party. Photo: Getty Images
Alexander Wang was born in the Bay Area city of San José, California. His parents were Taiwanese. According to what he once said to Suzy Menkes, he does not speak Mandarin or the minnan dialect (闽南语), and speculation that he does “is a false background”. Mr Wang’s early education took place in San José. Although some reports claimed he was interested in fashion since young, it was not until a summer design course in London’s Central Saint Martins when he was 15 that marked his formal foray into fashion. He continued his studies stateside at New York’s Parsons School of Design, but famously did not graduate. In 2005, half-way through school, he started his eponymous label. Just three years later, he won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, which came with a USD20,000 prize to grow his business. With continued support from Anna Wintour, Mr Wang soon found himself, in 2012, with a job offer from the Kering group: to succeed Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga.
Mr Wang’s debut Balenciaga collection was met with some enthusiasm. But many felt he did not quite live up to the pre-tenure hype. While he did make Balenciaga more commercial, his designs took no one’s breath away. More exciting was how, according to one social media post, Mr Wang and his posse behaved in Paris: ah lians caught in the dazzle of the City of Lights. In 2015, his contract with Balenciaga came to an end. Kering did not renew it. His one-term stint, like a one-term US presidency, did not appear to dent his by-then burgeoning name. When he left Balenciaga, Alexander Wang’s “models-off-duty look”—an amalgamation of athletic styles and nightclub staples—was the downtown aesthetic adopted by many women already abandoning the no-longer-necessary “office wear.”
Mr Wang is known to party hard, just as he has a reputation for throwing hard-core, packed-out parties, where his shindig togs are routinely worn by attendees, proudly. Whatever allegedly happened at the Holy Mountain rave, inspired by indie film maker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 art house movie, The Holy Mountain, it seems to suggest that Mr Wang is not alien to the gay party circuit, during which men often take off their shirts as they dance through what Owen Mooney called “sweaty nights”. Last year, before Mr Mooney’s accusations, the favourite rapper of the fashion world, Azealia Banks, Mr Wang’s “former muse”, who had also performed at his after-parties (as well as appearing in a T by Alexander Wang ad), shared on IG Stories different anonymous messages claiming Mr Wang’s sexual abuse (they’ve since been deleted). In the beginning, it seemed that these charges will be circumscribed within the walls of dance clubs, left to go off-track in the beat. However loud the music, it’s hard to drown out the din of the anger felt and expressed online by the abused. Hitherto, the accusers are not known to have filed police reports against Mr Wang, but that is not certainty that there won’t be repercussions on the brand, however he Wangs it. His famous “Wangover” could turn out to be Wang over.