After being accused of sexual assault in 2019, Alexander Wang makes a tacky comeback with a late, autumn/winter 2022 show
When you look at the Alexander Wang clothes now, it would be hard to connect them to his two-year stint at Balenciaga. Or, remember that he was once there. Mr Wang’s designs for his eponymous label have never truly left the parameters of streetwear and partywear. And he is taking them to no wear—clothes that are barely there, between those that hip-hop artistes need when they want to show their panties on the red carpet or their under-boobs for racier-and-racier music videos and those that actresses choose for revenge-dressing after breaking up with a high-profile boyfriend. He knows what his customers want, we have often been told. He still does, undoubtedly. But why does a designer, blamed for sexual assault (to which he initially denied, then apologised, and then privately met the accusers), return with a collection that places sex squarely in its heart, with the kind of clothes that would prompt his haters to say that the skimpy outfits encourage the behaviours that he was accused of?
Many supportive celebrities (of course, friend of the house, K-rapper CL, was there)—as well as his rabid fans—seemed unconcerned with his predatory past; they were out giving him the thumbs up for his cheesy “Fortune City”—his make-belief emporium of party-on fabulousness. Alexander Wang made a “comeback”, not in his home city of New York, but in Los Angeles, specifically in LA’s gaudy Chinatown, with neon lights for store names and for outlining the kitschy architecture of what is typical of Chinese buildings. It was earlier reported in the American media that Mr Wang was re-connecting with his Chinese heritage. In Chinatown? And what is so Chinese about this part of Central LA other than the foods and the gift shops that he was concurrently helping to promote. As before, Mr Wang’s show was really about the “WangFest”—this time, a yeshi (夜市, night market) that offered guests dim sum and, of course, bubble tea. There is, to us, something terribly lazy about tapping Chinatown and its attendant clichés, and passing that off as aligning with one’s roots.
Mr Wang is, of course, looking at Oriental aesthetics through his Chinese-American eyes, but more the latter than the former, as if pandering to Americans’ idea of what Chinese (or Asian) is. Exotic is crucial as subtext for a collection that says nothing about how he saw his ethnicity in the greater language of design. Mr Wang, born in San Francisco, is, in fact, Taiwanese, and it was the Chinatown of the American West Coast that completed the mise-en-scène of his sleaze-tinged, chinois-not collection. Reportedly, Alexander Wang (王大仁, or Wang Daren) is doing well in China, but it isn’t the fashion equivalent of noodles that he is selling to the Chinese, it is urban Americana revealing substantial skin. Tackiness, as we know, is borderless. And skin-baring is nothing new to him, but coming after February’s New York Fashion Week, his skin show was rather belated. Yet, it did not deter Mr Wang. Or was this merely deflecting from those allegations of sexual misconduct?
If you were hoping to see some rehabilitation of his image, you would be disappointed. It really bordered on the irritating to see more of those skimpy horizontal fabrics revealing much of the breast as clothing. Is there really a huge market for a bodysuit that had more body than suit? Or those ruffled halter-necked pieces exposing much of the torso that one product development manager we know called “vulva tops”? A next-to-nothing Shein has not done and will not do? Even Adriana Lima, pregnant, was mirroring Rihanna on the runway. As we have lamented before, autumn/winter is this scanty? Or, is the US really not that cold any more? Well, if you need to keep warm, you could amp up the vampiness—there are also those crotch-high boots and up-to-the-armpit leather gloves that could have been those very boots wrongly sized at sampling stage! It is truly hard to discern a takeaway from all this. BOF was right to say, “but even before the allegations, Wang’s brand was waning”. Truly, is it still cool to wear Alexander Wang?
Screen grab (top): Alexander Wang/YouTube. Photos: Alexander Wang