Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Alexander Wang Spring 2015 Collection: Commercial Artiste or Appropriator Extraordinaire?

 Looks from the Spring 2015 collection

In 2005, Alexander Wang, a recent attendee of Parsons, launched his own knitwear label, a line of slouchy cashmere sweaters in possession of the cool factor. Two years later, his ready-to-wear officially arrived, via Fall 2007 New York fashion week, and critics praised the promise of the 23-year-old's sloppy, streetwise aesthetic, sure to appeal to party girls and downtown socialites. That it did, and then some.

Looks from the Fall 2007 collection

By the time he debuted the next season, model Iekeliene Stange was describing Wang's line as "exactly what I want to wear,"and countless other girls agreed. It didn't hurt that his friend-turned-muse Erin Wasson was acting as stylist with her rugged, unfussy eye. Wang himself described his inspiration as the "M.O.D." aka, duh, the Model Off-Duty. Guess what? It went in his favor, big time. At that moment, nobody was really doing unabashed, approachable streetwear for girls, equal parts sexy, tough, slinky, and tomboyish. 

 The Spring 2007 collection

The appeal was in the ease; the message was it's okay to be a little messy, a little disheveled. Actually, it's preferable. Better yet, these clothes weren't pretending to be anything they were not, and Wang wasn't claiming to be an super-serious, acutely studied fashion designer, or at least no one was treating him as such. 

For Fall 2008, the smoky runway's beanie hats, shredded sheer tights, and scrunched socks felt just as integral as the oversized blazers and purposely fucked-up take on tailoring. It might have been an obvious interpretation of urban edge, but it was also a solid one. The looks succeeded in feeling badass because there was something genuine about the place they came from. Wang simply was looking at his friends and asking them what they wanted to wear. 

The Fall 2008 collection

It is possible that Spring 2009 marked Wang's apex, at least for those of us who prefer the "old Alex" to the new, arguably overly ambitious, "grown-up" guard, one that has seen him moonlighting in Paris as the - gasp! - replacement for the brilliant and nuanced Nicholas Ghesquière at Balenciaga. It was the first time he showed color, and he executed hue, which included South Beach-inspired pastels and brights, in a hard, distinctly un-feminine manner that few could do so successfully. 

The Spring 2009 collection

The collection also marked the beginning of his long-lasting relationship with athletic wear. What seemed like a fling has evolved into a recurring appropriation, from oversized sweatshirts all the way to football couture, as seen in the touchdown Spring '10 collection that marked a milestone in the evolution of Alexander. When discussing it, he said, "We want to create clothes that are timeless and classic. Our girl wants investment pieces."

The Spring 2010 collection

Those words said it all. It was only a matter of time before he felt the need to branch out from sports bras, hip-flashing trousers, and draped mini-dresses made for wearing into the early morning hours. Ambitious early-twentysomethings grow up, and more power to Alexander for always pursuing the next level. But when someone pushes forward with such gusto, it's often inevitable they mimic their predecessors. While his Spring 2015 collection is garnering rave reviews from fellow critics, one can't help but be struck with a feeling (if only a vague one) of déjà vu. 

 Left: Alexander Wang Spring 2015 look; right: Christopher Kane Spring 2007 look

 Left: Christopher Kane Resort 2010 look; right: Alexander Wang Spring 2015 look

Yes, it's technically astute and showcases a wise interpretation of the almost-out-of-control current sneaker trend, and yes, it seamlessly blends the wardrobe of a fully formed, fully grown woman and a speed-hungry adrenaline junkie, and yes, these are really nice clothes that girls already want to wear. But if the influence of past designs from Helmut Lang, Narciso Rodriguez, and Christopher Kane don't come to mind, well, then you ought to brush up on your recent fashion history. 

Left: Alexander Wang Spring 2015 look; right: Narciso Rodriguez Spring 2013 look

 Left: Helmut Lang Spring 2005 look; right: Alexander Wang Spring 2015 look

One-trick pony the designer is not, but I'm still gravely unconvinced that he is a pit of endless creativity. On the contrary, Wang does a few things and he does those things well. Let's stop pretending he does a whole lot more. Anyway, growing up can be overrated. 

No comments: