Cupid’s Door. Alexander Wang AW23

And just like that, it’s New York Fashion Week. The first show on the schedule, at least for a brief moment, made you feel like in the old days. 10 years ago, in 2013, Alexander Wang‘s show was also an opener in New York’s biggest fashion event. Anna Wintour sat in the f-row, hot music was bumping all over the rave-y venue, Instagram was just starting to be a thing, TikTok was non-existent. Wang was the city’s favourite fashion darling – and he was about to show his first collection for Balenciaga in Paris (anyone remembers that?). But we are in 2023, and the world-wide mood is different, even if NYFW does it best to look like in the pre-pandemic times. And Alexander Wang is no longer a new-gen designer with no controversies attached to his name.

In between May 2019, the time of Wang’s last NYFW show, and now, the designer faced allegations of sexual misconduct that threw the future of his business into question. He made a public apology and his accusers announced they were “moving forward“. He put on a show in Los Angeles’s Chinatown in April of 2022. Honestly, nobody cared to look at it. Yesterday’s New York comeback had a dramatic tension: will anyone care this time? It seems the fashion world forgave Wang, and the designer somehow managed to dive back into the city’s scene of good PR and viral people. A promo spot on his Instagram Reels starring Anna Delvey, the socialite fraudster under house arrest in an East Village apartment, seemed to suggest he wasn’t proceeding from a chastened place. Cheeky is more like it. That fits with the collection’s theme. He gave it a name, Cupid’s Door, and dressed the location in boudoir-ish style, with dusty pink velvet curtains and a mesmeric zebra-stripe carpet; lighting gels that cast a red glow over the whole place. Sexy is enjoying a comeback of its own in the wake of the pandemic. Julia Fox walked the show dressed in a barely-there nude dress and and man’s jacket, like the modern-day version of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex & The City‘s season 1. Lace-edged camisoles, low-slung python print pants, boxer briefs peeking over the tops of waistbands – all of that was here, too. No sight of novelty, clearly. Rather, a lot of ideas many other designers in New York went through in the last couple of seasons.

The show was divided into three acts: the opening women’s section featured a lot of denim and faux fur in a variety of textures and silhouettes, very downtown style. Backstage he mentioned Wong Kar Wai films like 2046 and In the Mood for Love, which might have prompted the dressy vibes. Next came a men’s grouping that was quite cool and simple: athleisure-y items like sweatpants and sweatshirts in soft, high pile fabrics, alongside cropped vests and more animal print pants. The ending was the weakest point of the collection. A series of silk fringe dresses suspended from heart shapes built on a foundation of sheer net that revealed as much as they concealed. Eveningwear was never Wang’s thing, and that previously mentioned short stint at Balenciaga didn’t help with crafting that. The thing is, the tumultuous period the designer went through eventually revealed the basic fact that fashion has dozens of other designers who can fill the “sexy” niche in a much better and fresher way than Wang. The autumn-winter 2023 line-up had its ups, but in overall, it seems to be nothing more than Insta-friendly styling.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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