by C. “Shae” J.
“With the fashion industry in a state of flux, there’s something comforting about the familiar. Thankfully, we can always count on Alexander Wang to show us a good time, which is why very few editors batted an eye when the designer directed them to an unlisted address in Harlem on Saturday night for his Fall 2017 show — an invitation that explicitly came with the warning “no after-party.”
That blurb was courtesy of Fashionista.com, the kind of place that embodies The Devil Wears Prada quote: “People would kill for this [fashion] job.” As stoked as fashion editors and writers seem in attending fashion week shows every February and September, there is a sense of entitlement to their presence while observing what designers will offer in the coming months. (If not immediately available after the runway show, as it is sometimes in a now social media world).
On Saturday, February 11, I had come a long way from standing outside of Richie Rich‘s, formerly of Heatherette, solo fashion show at Lincoln Center. Despite my strong familiarities with New York City based on past childhood visits, I was as green as a fresh transplant to the city could be. I swayed my body left to right in my own personal space, desperate to get a better glance from Lincoln’s open plaza. I could see the screen projecting Rich’s show, but I wasn’t in. I and about five other anxious onlookers just couldn’t resist.
That Saturday, I viewed Alexander Wang‘s Autumn/Winter 2017 collection live in person, my first fashion show. Fashionista claimed that it was an unlisted” address, but it had a number and a name: 3560 Broadway at 146 Street. When I walked from my friend’s home by 138th, also in Harlem, I simply used Google as a guide. This was as far into Harlem’s west side I was going to be in (Hamilton Heights), and nothing was recognizable until 145th Street, where the 1 train has a stop. The same 1 train I used to ride to and back when I lived in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx. I enjoyed the walk that was slightly uphill and in weather that was surprisingly kind in the still offset days of February. I liked seeing real New Yorkers going about their lives in their habitat. To everybody else, as I contained my thirst, it was just another Saturday night.
By 145th, I was across the street from where a crowd had gathered by a dark building the took up the end of a block. That had to be it. I didn’t know it then, but the show was going to be held inside a somewhat half-abandoned RKO Hamilton Theater. Half because a part of it is used for purposes like becoming a Halloween costume superstore every October. But the theater itself is crumbling, decayed, and with a fabulous and resourceful past that includes being a discotheque and grocery store.
Metro Boomin provided the opening act of a DJ set, a playlist of club trap hip-hop. The runway show was scheduled to start at 8 PM, but more guests piled in and the media already in a frenzy, as there was another corner to them on the side of Boomin. It was around approximately 8:20 that the lights went down for the second time. Boomin switched to a more industrial soundtrack, and finally, the first model appeared.
I got to say it was amazing to see the models strut one by one, with glamorously sour puss expressions, enhanced by not too matte smoky eyes. I demonstrated the fangirl ways of a Kylie Jenner stan (who was present, and nearby Teyana Taylor) when I witnessed Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. Both were frustratingly impressive in their model behavior than I imagined. The actual fashion of the show was classic Wang. If I had to come up with a kitschy name for it, it would be grunge chic. It was very rock. Almost a kind of Catholic school girl goes rock. Lots of black, a little gray. I definitely saw items I liked. The clothes of the runway matched the aesthetic of the guests, many of whom were likely Wang fans anyway. We were all wearing dark colors and the best our wardrobes had to give in the name of designer fashion. I had on Zara boots, a Kenzo x H&M coat and a beanie from years back that comically read: Feline, in reference to the French brand Celine. Color me in with the “in-crowd” (I guess).
The show itself was a good ten minutes long which was hilarious. After all that, the show was the same time frame of a Rugrats or Doug episode in a half hour. Then all them models came out strutting one by one and I wanted to scream with delight, I admit. For the designer finale, Wang excitedly jumped and jogged on the runway and that was it for 2017 from him until September to show off Spring/Summer 2018. (Oh gosh, are we already thinking of 2018?!)
Guests dispersed without any drama and the Peroni open bar was still open. It was a warehouse set up with barrels of presumably Peroni beer on top of each other. Only Wang could make this Home Depot shit look cool. I can’t recall ever having Peroni but it tasted good. Soon in passing, as selfies were being taken, I recognized some faces, such as the Editor in Chief of Teen Vogue Elaine Welteroth in a Moschino varsity jacket.
This whole stand in a dimly lit room affair was in place of an official after-party, the crowning piece of a Wang show for years. Wang’s after parties were always the talk of fashion week for their over the top, fun displays and scenes such as a carnival, and the addition of small concerts, like Nicki Minaj in 2013, and at the Seaport Pier 17 in Lower Manhattan. (The biggest #NYFW after-party I’ve attended was for Jeremy Scott at the Hudson Hotel in 2013. Members of A$AP Mob performed, turning the dancefloor into a hip-hop mosh pit of hype beast nation). For whatever reason, Wang chose to not do a big spectacle post-show and made “No After Party” into a tagline for A/W 2017. The catchphrase is currently on tights and shirts. (Marketing, people. Bring it on).
I insisted that I finished my one cup of Peroni and then was disgruntedly ready to leave. I walked past Zoe Kravitz who was near the doorway with a friend, and outside were kids and paparazzi waiting for any remaining famous people to come out. One kid, who took it upon himself to chat with me, was desperate to see Metro Boomin or new rapper 21 Savage, who was reportedly inside. I gave him some hope in saying that I believed Boomin was still in there. His eyes lit up with dreams that could become reality. I was amazed by the confirmation of how much these kids really looked up to the new class of rappers such as 21, Lil Uzi Vert, Migos, and Lil Yachty. Who am I to judge? I wanted to leap on the runway and take on-site lessons on walking when I saw Hadid.
After dream town was initiated for a new generation, a flurry of shouts of “Zoe! Zoe!” took over, cameras flashed and I, of course, was in the middle of paparazzi and fans trying to catch a shot of Kravitz. As cool as beautiful, celeb offspring ice, smoothly she went into her car and it drove away with her.
When I finally began my journey back to 138th, my elated self, still high off of witnessing the Wang show, went to Rite Aid for some candy and ice cream. As I placed my copies of Daily Front Row and WWD under my arm, just like that, my New York Fashion Week became just another Saturday night in the city where the “good life” could be experienced in a still-standing relic of oldfangled Harlem.