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In 2019, the designer Alexander Wang was accused by several people of assault, groping and other sexual harassment. After initially denying them, Wang seemed to acknowledge the truth of those accusations in 2021, apologizing to the victims and laying low for a couple of years.
After spending the last two years focusing on his business’s booming growth in China, Alexander Wang made his New York return on Wednesday night. Based on the attendance, you’d never know his brand was tarnished just two years earlier.
It was, for Wang, the first major salvo of his attempted comeback. His business hasn’t suffered at all since the accusations, gaining two new big investors from China, Challenjers Capital and Youngor Group, and making more than $200 million annually with plans to double that in the next five years. But the fate of his reputation in the New York fashion scene was in question. He sat out of last NYFW, showing in Los Angeles instead. His first show back in New York was billed as his “romantic return,” held in the space that once held the famous Jing Fong restaurant before it moved from Elizabeth Street to Centre Street.
With a black-and-white zebra print floor and floor-to-ceiling red curtains, the scene resembled nothing more than the Black Lodge from “Twin Peaks.” The ominous vibe wasn’t helped by the bombastic “Phantom of the Opera”-esque music.
But the question of whether the fashion world would show up for Alexander Wang was answered. The 150-person audience was filled with a who’s who of New York fashion elite. Anna Wintour was spotted, as were Harper’s Bazaar’s Samira Nasr and CFDA CEO Steven Kolb. Julia Fox and Gabbriette Bechtel walked the runway. And celebrities like Nikita Dragun and Ava Max were also in the crowd.
The warm welcome from the fashion world wasn’t without its critics, though. On social media, reactions ranged from the mildly annoyed to the openly hostile.
Louis Pisano, a fashion writer, was openly critical of the some of the positive coverage that Wang’s show received and the influencers and celebrities who helped facilitate his return.
“I’m not surprised at all by the reception the show got,” Pisano told Glossy over DM. “Over the last year we’ve seen the aggressive image rehabilitation of Alexander Wang, mainly via celebrity friends and stars of the moment which puts in people’s heads that if so-and-so thinks he’s cool again, then maybe so should I.”
It calls to mind the way that Dolce & Gabbana went from industry pariah — after a series of controversies, including leaked DMs from Stefano Gabbana with racist comments — to being back in the limelight, thanks to support from celebrities like the Kardashians.
“The reality is that we work in an industry where wealth and fame are a currency, and proximity to that and the possibility of achieving that for oneself causes a lot of people to look the other way when it comes to taking a stand on serious issues,” Pisano said. “But let’s be for real: Are we expecting the likes of reality stars, mid-level pop singers and influencers to have any sort of moral compass when an opportunity for exposure comes up, even if it’s co-signing someone problematic? Alexander Wang is still famous at the end of the day, and the power of celebrity unfortunately often clouds judgement.”