From Fortune City To Sleazy Boudoir

Alexander Wang showed what dressing the likes of Julia Fox is about

Alexander Wang (王大仁) has made tacky sexiness a selling point. As he gets better at it, he wants to offer more. And why not when you have a fan/willing adopter in Julia Fox (above). For his autumn/winter presentation, shown outside the NYFW calendar, he had Ms Fox walk down the runway—a space in New York City that was formerly a Chinese restaurant, but now turned into a oversized boudoir with pink curtains and zebra stripes for the carpet. There is, of course, good campy and not-so-good campy. And it does not take much effort to make out which side Mr Wang erred on. Ms Fox was in her element, strutting down the runway as if it was a hypermarket car park. She was togged in an oversized, glittery blazer under which was a sheer, also-glittery shift that could have been picked from her own wardrobe. She comfortably embraced “free the nipple”, as the popular practice has been described. A white, unadorned panty was the most modest item of clothing on her. You could tell Ms Fox was working it and enjoying it.

It is not known conclusively if Mr Wang’s past scandals were now forgotten, whether in the US or elsewhere. The show-up at the show was evidence that they were. Not only did he manage to get the camera-loving Ms Fox on the runway (which probably wasn’t too hard), he was able to entice New York fashion fraternity’s best and most-known to attend: There were the Council of Fashion Designers of America Inc’s CEO Steven Kolb, Harper’s Bazaar’s first Black EIC Samira Nasr and, clearly far from least, Vogue’s indefatigable Anna Wintour, whose presence must have surely and resoundingly said “welcome back”. This show was not a mere return to the community that adores him, it was a stunning shift from the celebrity-centric gathering of the spring/summer 2023 season’s Fortune City carnival extravaganza in Los Angeles to the industry big-wig conclave of his home city. Nothing could spell all was forgotten more than this.

It is hard to say that Mr Wang offered anything truly new. These clothes continued the hooker chic that he is partial to, which really meant scanty or see-through pieces. These days, the seasons are really quite mixed up. You get puffers for spring/summer and flimsy négligée dresses for autumn/winter. Mr Wang showed coats, but these were so unremarkable that you had to look beneath them. And like streetwalkers of cities with cold seasons, the models wore very sheer inners (or near nothing) under. There was even a cropped, hooded top paired with a see-through skirt. This isn’t observation by a bunch of prudes. Fashion-loving folks do want to be able to see clothes, not the lack of them. There is, of course, a market for the barely-there (or those triangular straps that frame the breasts. We were certain we had seen them somewhere else), whether for day or night. And Mr Wang catered to it by putting a luxury touch to the light and the thin, and the diaphanous.

When he did not do sexy, he contemplated the geeky and also returned to the old premise, sporty. Oversized jackets, by now omnipresent and hackneyed, went with shirts and ties, and narrow skirts, or as part of a lame three-piece suit. Without a jacket, an oversized shirt was worn on its own (and an untied tie) to unambiguous pant-less effect. It was as if Mr Wang had given the men’s pieces to the women, but not, interesting, in a form of a swap. The guys, for the most part, were not lavished with tailoring. Nor were they bestowed skirts. These were the relaxed, street-style clothes Kanye West would wear, now that his relationship with Balenciaga is strained (or irreparable?). Mr Wang would wear them too, especially for late-night socializing, since it is likely that no one would fear the designer’s appearance in a nightclub. Or, bemoan his presence. The return of Alexander Wang is real and unmistakable. Fashion is the great eraser of past indiscretions.

Screen shot and photos: Alexander Wang

Back For Sure

Phoebe Philo has announced that her eponymous label will make its appearance in the eighth month of 2023

We now know that Phoebe Philo’s return is slated for September this year. Ms Philo announced just 12 hours ago on her Instagram page that the brand’s “inaugural collection will be revealed and available on our website… in September 2023.” This is indeed confirmation of a much awaited return. It is not, however, certain if this means that the label will be participating in the spring/summer 2024 show calendar or if the clothes—“available”—would be sold online through the Phoebe Philo website, which would indicate an autumn/winter 2023 first season. The IG message also tells us that “opening for registration” is in July. Is this for store buyers or consumers, we are unable to say for certain. There is little else by way of image to give us an idea of what the clothes would look like (would there be a men’s line?). At the end of the photo message on IG is the designer’s name, which could be in the label’s logotype. If so, Ms Philo could be joining the serif brigade, currently led by Burberry whose own logotype was recently redesigned under the watch of the brand’s new designer Daniel Lee.

It has been nearly four years since Phoebe Philo left Céline*, where she held the creative reigns for close to a decade. It is unlikely that her fans have stopped pining for her designs (#oldcéline is still active) despite good alternatives. In 2021, while the unpredictable pandemic raged on, it was announced that the world’s most powerful luxury conglomerate LVMH will back (“a minority stake”, reportedly) Ms Philo’s come back. A collective cry of delight was heard everywhere. According to Business of Fashion then, the namesake line would include clothing and accessories of “exceptional quality”. It is hard to imagine Phoebe Philo the label to be anything less. It was also thought that the line would launch last year, but 2022 came and left, and no news was heard of the launch, sparking speculation that her studio (she reportedly recruited two key members of the staff from Balenciaga) was not ready. Ms Philo, who has kept a very low profile (and whose new IG account contains only that one post), likely wanted to take her time to create something extraordinary. Many are expecting that. And until September may be just too long a time to wait.

*For this post, we’re keeping to the Phoebe Philo-era spelling of Céline