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Alexander Wang at New York fashion week: a return to urban roots

Like most people of his generation, 31-year-old Alexander Wang’s chosen method of communication is social media.

On the morning of his Saturday evening spring/summer 2016 show at New York fashion week, the US designer posted an image on Instagram that asked followers if they wanted to press the reset button, “to start over”. If the 12,000 likes are anything to go by, the answer was a resounding “yes”.

Wang required a reset due to the context surrounding the New York fashion week show. It was not only the 10th anniversary of the designer’s eponymous label, but the first since the July announcement that he was departing as creative director of Paris fashion house Balenciaga.

Models sport hooded tops and sweaters with lattice inspired by American footballs. Photograph: WWD/REX Shutterstock

It was a time, then, to reset and reassert the Wang look, to go back to the label’s roots. The designer did this in a collection that featured signatures recognisable to what is now his significant following.

The first outfit was full of Wangisms: a crop top, slouchy trousers and lots of studs on the model’s shoes and earrings.

Other boxes were ticked as the show, which included men’s and women’s wear, developed: it included mesh vest shapes, sweaters with lattice inspired by American footballs, hooded tops, bomber jackets and tracksuit trousers.

The overall mood was the one Wang has made his own: slouchy, cool, off-duty style that never looks like it tries too hard.

Backstage, a breathless Wang explained the collection came from leaving any “high concepts” behind and instead thinking about what “the girls I know wear … and the characters of the girls who wear them”.

This, arguably, is the position Wang came from since the start of his fashion career.

If he now produces shows beamed live around the world, and boasts a front row that features Mary J Blige, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and Kanye West, he began by dressing the cool downtown girls who were his friends, and watched as others who wanted to dress like them bought his clothes.

Designing a collection for HM last year (announced on Instagram, of course) was perhaps an acknowledgement that, to a generation of fashion-literate people under 30, Wang’s is a rock star name.

This show had something of a stadium gig about it. As invitees made their way into the venue, they could buy merchandise as they would at a gig.

T-shirts and sweatshirts with the slogan “Do something”, a charity that works with young people that Wang has collaborated with, were for sale for between US$45 (£29) and US$70 (£45).

Lady Gaga (left) and Mary J Blige in the front row at the Alexander Wang spring/summer 2016 show. Photograph: Matt Baron/REX Shutterstock

At the end of the show, Wang took his bow to glitter cannons while massive video screens played footage of the last 10 years, including Wang saying “I never thought fashion would take me this far so soon”.

Wang’s spell at Balenciaga ends in October, after less than three years as creative director. Replacing Nicolas Ghesquière, who spent 15 years at the Parisian house, Wang’s era reportedly brought double-digit growth, with estimates of revenues between US$340m (£220m) and US$566 (£367m).

Alexander Wang takes to the catwalk. Photograph: WWD/REX Shutterstock

The spring/summer 2016 show, to take place in Paris on 2 October, will be his last for Balenciaga.

Going forward, Wang’s focus is, once again, on his eponymous brand. Wang’s business had revenues of around US$100m (£65m) in 2013 and now has a second line of jersey basics, accessories and 20 stand-alone stores. The newest of these is in London, with a flagship store which opened in Mayfair in August.

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