Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Elephant

In the world of street-cred style, Alexander Wang reigns supreme. The stupendously young designer was tapped to take the helm of Balenciaga late last year, a move that signaled to many a shift for the storied brand towards a more youth-oriented, consumer-friendly market. The Parisian house of Balenciaga is known for its cutting-edge silhouettes, even if they're sometimes shapeless (see: 1957 sack dress). Alexander Wang's empire was built one $100 t-shirt at a time.

But that's a sign of the times: The t-shirt has become a staple in American dressing, and when paired with an ankle-length satin column, the look hits 2013 on the nose. It's realistic.

I was a bit surprised to see Alexander Wang's collection for Fall 2013, shown at New York Fashion Week.  It was a mass of leather, fuzzy mittens, and pleats that cut futuristic silhouettes (think androgynous and sharp), but I couldn't help myself from thinking, Yes, but who will actually wear this? Six foot tall, seven stone models aren't flattered by the designs. You'd have to really work to make one of the pieces relatable.

Did I just miss the point? Is fashion an expression, and nothing else? Am I taking creation and art and turning it into something mundane? Or, perhaps, I am asking out loud what everyone who knows, knows: that it is the effort to take something so improbable and turn into an effortless expression that is the currency of design?

The more I see the designs, the more I appreciate them. Wang didn't give us something pretty or expected. His collection challenges our notion of what good design is. Raf Simons did similarly with his debut Dior collection last Spring. He used iridescent neon gossamer where many assumed they'd find black silk. Wang gave us fur helmets instead of moto jackets. He gave us expression instead of a t-shirt.

(photos: Elle)


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