Alexander Wang has always loved a bash, and for his 10th anniversary collection tonight he threw himself a big one.
Up front, a merch table sold his DoSomething.org tees and sweats, which benefit the organization’s youth and social change efforts. It was straight out of a rock show, a feeling that was accentuated inside the venue by the crush of celebrities who sat in the front row. Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Josh Ostrovsky (a.k.a. “The Fat Jew”), The Weeknd, Bella Hadid, Mary J. Blige . . . the list goes on. Post-show, a curtain at the back of the runway opened to reveal a phalanx of pole dancers, who entertained the throngs until it was time for the party’s big numbers. Tinashe, Lil Wayne, and Ludacris all performed. But the night’s main act was the video that played after the models took their finale spin. An extended highlights reel, it was a long, loud, chronological look back at Wang’s first decade, from his early bows, short-haired and baby-faced at 21, all the way through last November’s H&M collab and his Fall ’15 advertising campaign.
It’s a critical moment for Wang. In July, he and Balenciaga opted not to renew their contract beyond its first three-year term. Such a short tenure at such a prestigious house could tarnish a designer’s reputation, but Wang has emerged essentially unscathed and, as he seemed to be saying with tonight’s hoopla, bigger than ever.
When the split was announced, Wang suggested that he wanted to turn his focus to his eponymous brand. That meant expectations were elevated for this new collection. If some of the surrounding festivities (ahem, those pole dancers) were somewhat off-message, he nailed the collection, which was free of pretense. “No concept,” he said backstage, summing up the straight-off-the-streets ethos of the clothes. “We’re always asking ourselves what’s modern. Well, what’s modern is what’s right in front of us.” That’s an idea that’s gained traction in the industry over the last couple of years, but it was Wang’s own approach at the beginning. It worked for him then, and, save for a couple of costumey fringed leather pieces, it worked for him tonight with his deconstructed denim, army surplus separates, pajama silks, slip dresses, and one shrunken satin bomber jacket. Wang intuitively gets what the downtown cool girl wants to wear. There’s no disputing the New Yorkiness of his clothes, but no anniversary collection is complete without a throwback moment. Anybody still wondering what the AW510 insignia that turned up on an oversize hoodie and some of the men’s pieces stands for? Wang, remember, hails from Northern California: 510 is the born-in-the-Bay-Area area code of his cellphone.