The trip to the venue was half the story of the Alexander Wang fall/winter 2014 fashion show. Breaking through the universally agreed upon perimeter of New York Fashion Week by deciding to show his collection off the island of Manhattan, Wang took the fashion world to Brooklyn. But not gentrified Brooklyn, his Saturday night show was located in the bleak industrial setting of the city’s Navy Yard docks in a hanger-like space called the Duggal Greenhouse.
It was quite a trek to get to the site. And at first glimpse of the deceptively simple looking square stage outfitted with industrial archways, that looked to be air vents, had quite a few fashion editors grumbling that the minimalistic staging could have been done anywhere. Sufficed to say Wang had an uphill battle on his hands.
“Extreme conditions,” said Wang backstage after his show about the starting point for his collection. The designer decided to fight back in style against the elements, the urban landscape and the boundaries of textile innovation. And it was a war that he won hands down.
The first group of minimalistic jackets and short dresses that looked like fashion hybrids of survivalist vests set the tone. Covered in pockets to carry cell phones, wallets, sunglasses, and iPad minis, they were designed to help city dwellers to make it out alive. From there came an assortment of cool urban outerwear. There were the thigh-high boots slash wellies made to weather urban snow banks; “Emergency” bright blue or yellow windbreakers that zipped into suit jackets; Bulky shearling coats and roomy suede pieces with ragged hemlines- as if ripped from the clutches of a wayward fashionista who was desperate to get her hands on some Wang outerwear- also reinforced the protect and shelter vibe of the show. Even some jacquard pieces that featured a mountain range motif were set in colors that brought to mind the idea that the peaks were being viewed through night vision goggles.
Wang sealed the deal on this resourceful collection with a show-stopping finale. He sent out a lineup of modern day supermodels to stand on a central circular conveyor belt that slowly turned so each one stood in front of those arching air vents. It turned out they were heating vents and as the models warmed themselves in front of them, the black outfits revealed their true colors. Each ensemble was crafted from heat sensitive fabrics that transformed every laser cut coat, high heeled boot, nubby top or city shorts into a vibrant shade of blue, green, purple or yellow. The chameleon colors then faded back into black once the models moved away from the heat, to seamlessly blend back into their concrete jungle environment.
But did the fashion pack really need to make the pilgrimage all the way to Brooklyn to truly appreciate the message of Wang’s powerful show? That was very much up for debate for those watching the minutes tick by as they sat in a never-ending traffic jam of luxury town cars trying to find their way back to civilization.