Step inside Alexander Wang’s ‘Fortune City’ event in Chinatown
A few years ago, Alexander Wang faced a number of sexual misconduct accusations, which he denied — at first. Wang then met with accusers and released a public apology, claiming he would “do better.” Following that meeting, attorney Lisa Bloom, who represented Wang’s accusers, wrote, “We acknowledge Mr. Wang’s apology and we are moving forward.” On April 19, in a controversial move, Wang staged his first runway show in almost three years. But it was meant to be more than just a show. Set in Los Angeles’ historic Chinatown, the multi-layered event celebrated Wang’s Asian-American roots, showcasing Chinese food, culture and history. Here’s what it was like.
Photography by Jonathan White
Under a lantern-strung plaza, in the heart of Los Angeles’ historic Chinatown, the scene looks different. The usual fixtures are there: stores touting rows of waving lucky cats and porcelain figurines, others slinging steel tai chi fans and double-edged swords. But anyone who’s ever been to this often-frequented part of the neighborhood would notice — on this balmy Wednesday evening, something’s a-brewing.
That something is a “Fortune City,” or as designer Alexander Wang calls it, “a multi-layer” event meant to celebrate his Asian-American heritage while supporting the Chinatown Corporation’s preservation efforts of the area’s historic plaza. The first layer starts right here, just past the security check-in, with food — as all good things do. For a taste, all you have to do is trade in your vouchers — make-believe pink cash handed out before you walk in.
Once inside, the smell of skewered meat sizzling on an open flame permeates the air, and beyond that, a line-up of red stalls boast traditional Chinese fare. Like, dragon beard candy, often referred to as Chinese cotton candy. You can watch an expert transform molasses into floss-thin strings, pulling, stretching and folding the mass over on itself. He then dips the strands into a tray of cornstarch and tucks in a filling of coconut and crushed nuts. (It’s delicious, in case you were wondering.) Ask the vendors, and they’re more than happy to offer a crash course in how it’s all made.
But there’s much more.
Guests sink their chopsticks into lo mein noodles in miniature paper pails, tuck into scallion pancakes and lychee pineapple buns, and sip on shaved ice and boba. Crisp-skinned, roasted duck hang by metal hooks, inviting inspection (and a bite!) Metal steamer baskets hold an array of dim sum. There’s a lot to enjoy here, and from so many vendors.
Slowly, the plaza fills up with more and more attendees. Events like this are rarely, if ever, open to the public, but of the guests present, many are fashion enthusiasts who simply RSVP-ed via Wang’s social media link. (The other star-studded half who’re mingling elsewhere include rapper Bia, “Euphoria” actress Chloe Cherry, Behati Prinsloo, twin sisters Simi and Haze, to name a few.)
For a while, showgoers scatter about the space, weaving in and out of souvenir shops, food in hand. Some shop inside a red-light-drenched store that’s slinging Alexander Wang jersey underwear, bra-tops and bodywear. It isn’t until a little before 9 p.m. that the tall red curtain wall opens up into a whole new area, complete with a red runway guarded by two stone foo dogs. This is where the show begins.
After a long stretch of waiting, a haze of green smoke indicates the start of something. The crowd grows quiet. A deep bass note rattles the ground, and then, the models come out, feet hitting the elevated red runway to the staccato of the beat. First: an oversized denim vest layered atop an unbuttoned crisp white shirt, a hint of a white bra-top peeping through. A logo-embossed belt ties it all together, the strap curling like a tail. This is Wang’s signature brand of model-off-duty street wear. Smart tailoring. Always with an edge. Always with a touch of slouchy sophistication that swishes with every move.
Leather runs rampant, particularly in the form of thigh-high boots, which crop up look after look. The material also manifests in opera gloves, ankle-grazing vests and outerwear pieces. South African model Candice Swanepoel struts down the runway in an oversized leather jacket paired with a ruffled one-piece, a sliver of a skirt and high boots. The color palette lingers in blacks and whites and splashes of blue denim. Then, there’s a brighter wave — white jersey dresses draped in effortless, organic ways. And pops of pink and red: a head-to-toe red tracksuit, fuzzy bags and statement earrings.
Silhouettes oscillate between the relaxed and slinky; shorts are either itty-bitty or knee-length and baggy, with little middle ground. Exaggerated shoulders are spread wide, just a reminder that Wang can surely cut mean outwear. He also has a keen way of reworking something well-known, like a white button-down or a blazer, into something familiar but fresh, and really making them sing.
Subtle, quiet ruffles find a place in the collection, too. A pregnant Adriana Lima bares her belly through a cut-out, frill-festooned minidress. Alessandra Ambrosio dazzles in a black ruffled bra-top, with panties peeking out of hip-swiveling denim shorts. Dark lipstick and slicked-back hair add to the sexy, devil-may-care persona.
For those after-dark looks, shimmer comes through in — what else? — thigh-high boots. Whether rendered in denim, leather or glitter, there’s no doubt this statement-making footwear is a dominant silhouette in show. (And on a lot of runways as of late — from Isabel Marant to Courrèges). So are the rebooted low-hanging pants. In some moments, there’s no line break between boot and bottoms; both become an extension of one another. The collection might be a great lesson in styling as much as design itself, of striking that balance of baggy and put-together. So hard to achieve, but so effortless here, so cool. The crowd knows this.
As the last look exits the runway, there’s a moment of pause. Traditionally, this is the time during a show that the designer comes out for a bow. But after so much controversy, everyone is wondering if Wang would sit this one out. Surely enough though, he walks down the runway, waving to a cheering crowd. A slowed-down version of The Rhythm of the Night plays in the background, and upon his exit, showgoers are showered with a rain of confetti. Red lights flood the space, marking the end of the night and Wang’s return to the runway.
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