There was a time not long ago when Alexander Wang threw the most highly-anticipated, talked-about event of New York Fashion Week – normally a buzzy, surprise-filled rager. A lot has changed since Wang’s last NYFW blow out, but in some ways, a lot has stayed the same.
For years, the club-hopping designer was the subject of rumors and accusations of sexual assault, which reached a boiling point early in early 2021, when The New York Times and The Cut both published accounts of alleged nonconsensual encounters with the designer, and eleven individuals retained the services of civil-rights attorney Lisa Bloom.
In formal statements, Wang initially dismissed the claims as false, but later said that he “regret (s) acting in a way that caused them pain,” and that “while we disagree on some of the details of these personal interactions, I will set a better example and use my visibility and influence to encourage others to recognize harmful behaviors. ” Bloom responded to the second statement on Twitter, sharing that her clients “had the opportunity to speak their truth to him and expressed their pain and hurt,” and concluding: “We acknowledge Mr. Wang’s apology and we are moving forward.”
That was, apparently, that. Alexander Wang, the brand, went on to maintain a presence on social media, in top retailers and on celebrities like Rihanna, Kylie Jenner, Julia Fox, CL and Lucy Liu. (The latter starred in one of its recent campaigns.) Wang, the person, meanwhile, avoided the spotlight and the runway – until Tuesday night, when the New York designer staged “Fortune City,” his first live event since 2019, in the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles, featuring a runway show, party and night market.
Once again, everyone was talking about an Alexander Wang event, but instead of excitement, there was more of a burning curiosity: Was Wang leaning back into the hard-partying image that ultimately got him in trouble? Would he give interviews? Would his usual crew of supermodels and celebrity pals show up? Would anyone show up? Was he officially “back”?
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There were no interviews, and the event – billed as a “multi-layered event and runway show celebrating Asian American culture, food and music” – appeared to be alcohol-free. Despite being open to the public and even advertised with a billboard, entry to the event, held outdoors, was not as chaotic as the brand’s previous open-to-the-public events. There was a separate entrance for invited guests, and a small group of famous pals did show up just before the runway show began, including Erika Jayne, CL, Chloe Cherry, Gunna, Noah Beck, Simi & Haze and Lisa Rinna.
Rinna’s daughter, Amelia Gray Hamlin, walked the runway, as did veteran models Adriana Lima (her toned baby bump displayed through a ruffled cut-out), Candice Swanepoel and Alessandra Ambrosio. Given the many members of Wang’s model crew who did not appear, their presence felt like a particularly bold show of support in the face of the public backlash that inevitably bubbles up on social media when one associates with a “canceled” entity. (And that it did.)
It’s clear that not everyone is ready to forgive Wang, and that he’s not going to disappear. His consistent sell-through at top retailersplans to expand into China, new collection with commercial appeal and solid (if smaller) cohort of celebrities happy to wear it, all seem to bode well for the brand’s future.