Slick, glamorous, sport-driven, technically intricate, and desirable. All these descriptions apply to Alexander Wang’s spring collection—the kind of show that trains a spotlight on a new American generation’s potential to push fashion forward. The surprise, though? Wang’s sources. He said it all started with him thinking about “sneakers! They’re such an infatuation of my generation. But I wanted to reinterpret and manipulate the ideas and mix them with the cutting of Madame Grès and Fortuny.”
Well, you can see where he’s coming from. There is a whole lot more polish to what Wang is doing since he’s been exposed to Paris and its couture ways via his creative directorship of Balenciaga. These days, there’s no vestige left of the sloppy, casual, street vibe he began with (at least not on the runway; it lives on in his mega-grossing T collection). These days, he is visibly out to carve a reputation for high-spec quality and a precise silhouette. True, there are echoes in it of the energy of the great days of Helmut Lang’s shows and the sci-fi futurism pioneered by Nicolas Ghesquière, but the innovative level of Wang’s techniques puts him in a place where he’s really pushing boundaries. His knitwear, particularly, is astonishing—bubbled, compact surfaces that seem to involve plastic but also reference (at a very long distance) Fair Isle patterns? Very clever. The sight of a bra top constructed from multiple, dense striations of red and gray pleating that looked almost like hot-rod flames licking up and over the model’s body? Really good.
That sense of technical progress was tempered by a strong understanding of what’s actually wearable. Sometimes designers do get carried away by showing off their latest discoveries. Not so in this case. Wang’s lineup was grounded in some of the best high-waisted black satin pants seen on any runway for a long time—a sophisticated “classic” that looked particularly brilliant paired with a sharp, white spencer jacket.
In other words, one of the things Alexander Wang has learned at warp speed is that, when it comes down to it, no one cares about where a fashion idea starts; it’s whether you can turn it into something that resonates in the now. And yes, he proved that this spring. As it turned out, the collection that was inspired by sneakers didn’t have a sneaker in sight. Instead there were woven high-heeled sock-shoes, and sandals made partially from techno-fishnet. The sight of those had women in the audience craning forward to inspect from the first look onward. They were very, very good.