Alexander Wang: A meditation on the lowly sneaker

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — Looking for inspiration for his spring collection, Alexander Wang had to search no further than, well, his feet.

"Sneakers!" Wang said when asked, in a backstage interview after his runway show Saturday, what his overarching design theme had been.

Wang is always a big Fashion Week draw, and this show, in a huge pier by the Hudson River, was no exception — the designer had Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and model Lauren Hutton all sitting together in the front row.

"He has a very unique style, and I think that his own uniqueness is what to me makes him similar to me," Minaj said. "He doesn't necessarily have a colorful, crazy style, but it's his own thing, and he kind of coins his own sort of image and I love it. "

But back to those sneakers: Wang said he takes no stock in trend reports he's seen saying there's a backlash against the sneaker.

"Sneakers for me have always been part of my uniform," Wang said. "It's something that's iconic in my generation — you know, a cult of sneakers. So I thought, 'Why don't we take the sneaker and apply it to the clothes? Take what's most recognizable — the color waves or the patterning or the way that the sneaker reflects personality, you know, and put it in different gangs of girls."

What that meant was some futuristic-looking outfits, like tight black, white or brightly colored mini-dresses with mesh cutouts and stripes around the waist that looked like the bottom part of a sneaker. And other, longer styles, in gray knit for example, that looked subtler, more classic.

While many dresses were tight and short, many with colorful tops, there were also some looser, longer shift-type dresses.

"He designs stuff that's cool, young, edgy, easy to wear," noted Rihanna, making her way to her front-row seat. "It's everything that I believe in. It's fashionable but it looks effortless."

Wang, 30, is one of the busiest designers on the fashion scene: He runs his own label and also is creative director of Balenciaga. He's based in both in New York and Paris. This Fashion Week, he did his New York audience a favor, keeping the show in Manhattan; in February, he brought his audience out to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, resulting in some grumbling (not about the show, but about the commute and the difficulty of making it in time from other shows.)

The sultry weather, he noted, was challenging enough. "Fashion Week is always the most extreme week in February and the most extreme week in September," he said, wiping his brow. "This feels like the hottest day of the summer!"

Wang said he appreciated the support of stars like Rihanna, Minaj and model Hutton.

"All the people that we invite are people that we admire and respect," he said. "They have a point of view and they make a very bold statement."