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Cathy Horyn: ‘Alexander Wang Is Not a Great Designer’

Alexander Wang is on a roll. His show has morphed over the past couple of years into one of the hottest of New York Fashion Week, working its way toward Marc Jacobs–level buzz, with ticketing so strict you might think the room was home to not only a runway show, but also the free world’s nuclear secrets. His carnival-themed after-party only kept the buzz going well into the next day — if Fashion Week attendees weren’t debating his collection and fretting over their ability not to spill on next year’s whites, they were talking about which carnival rides they went on and how late the fun kept them out. Did he have two bars or three? Etc. But today, Cathy Horyn brings her reliably sober view to the excitement over the designer.

Mr. Wang is not a great designer, though he probably would be happy to accept any laurels that people want to toss him, but he is clearly a shrewd guy.

Unlike some of his dreamy peers, he decided at the outset to make affordable clothes. That’s the traditional, pre-Internet way to reach a lot of people. He also must have sensed that fashion’s memory hole was widening in direct proportion to the numbers of young people Googling his name. The designs were cool, but they didn’t have to stand up to much scrutiny — hey, didn’t Marni do those pants last season? — so long as the stuff was widely and easily available. Mr. Wang doesn’t really have courage in the traditional sense of trying something new and difficult, but he does have China. Nearly all of his clothing is now produced there.

… The collection downloaded the ideas of designers like Ann Demeulemeester and Issey Miyake — naturally, without their sense of energy and intuition — and for that reason, despite some cute looks, the show was a little boring.

But don’t fret for the 26-year-old Mr. Wang: the combined whiplash of globalization and the Internet all but guarantees that these clothes will look new to someone.

And even if they didn’t, his after-party style — lease a parking lot, truck in the port-a-potties, and hand out booze — is not only uniquely him, but something different for well-heeled fashion people, who have had more than one too many sponsored cocktails in a lounge somewhere with red-velvet furniture. No, if Wang is anything to go by, the way to make people feel cool these days is to make them feel normal.

Pursuit of the New, or Just the Sellable [NYT]
Related: Critics Praise Wang’s All-White Looks, Wince at Posen’s Excess

Cathy Horyn: ‘Alexander Wang Is Not a Great Designer’