Around 9:15 Saturday night, outside a dark warehouse where designer Alexander Wang presented his 10th anniversary collection, Nicki Minaj emerged inconspicuously from her limousine.
She stood alone, unnoticed, and unsure of her next move—where were the cameras?—until a single bulb flashed from behind.
“Come around to this side!” she screamed at the lens, pointing out in front of her: She’d give him one shot, and was evidently prepared to make a scene for it to be the best head-to-toe picture taken that night.
Lady Gaga was blinded by flashes the second she stepped out of her car in a pair of glittering, precipitously tall platforms.
The celebrated New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham was hunched over near the warehouse entrance, ready for Gaga and her bedazzled shoes.
Minaj slipped away through a side door.
Minutes later, the two music divas were seated next to each other in the front row, ignoring the crush of people around them. Gaga dragged from her cigarette and exhaled in a paparazzo’s face.
Kanye wasn’t ready to sit, someone whispered to a security guard trying to herd people toward their seats.
The rapper’s hooded head hung low, facing a wall. Josh Ostrovsky (otherwise known as “The Fat Jew”) chatted loudly nearby, his hazard-orange sweatsuit directing attention away from an unusually shy Kanye. Kim Kardashian West was conspicuously absent.
Wang’s shows tend to bring out all the hip-hop artists, and this year was no different. Mary J. Blige, The Weeknd with model girlfriend Bella Hadid, and rapper Tyga all sat front row. (Tinashe, Lil Wayne, and Ludacris all performed at the after-party).
The designer returned to his roots with streetwear for his spring collection: bomber jackets, oversized hoodies, pajama shirts, wide-brimmed baseball caps, and lots of ripped or faded denim. Models stomped down the runway to the heavy bass thud in Leikeli47’s “Fuck The Summer Up.”
The underwhelming presentation lasted only five minutes, almost as long as the show’s closer: a hypnotic video mash-up retrospective of Wang’s 10 years in the business—the designer’s very own hip-hop video.
The evening’s biggest attractions were the pole dancers, who looked like contorted mannequins when a curtain went up after the show, opening up the rest of the venue for the after-party.
One of the pole mannequins began to twirl and split and twerk in the air, and the others followed one-by-one.
They wore sporty black bras and underwear branded with Wang’s initials, AW, on each cheek.
Occasionally they took breaks, handing over their poles to another dancer.
Each station had a Wang-branded spray bottle: the designer’s face on a $10 bill, which contributed to the strip-club vibe. Several people said Wang had hired the best dancers in New York for the occasion, who were still working it at 1 a.m., when Lil Wayne came on stage.
The celebs were all cordoned off in a VIP-designated area, though Lady Gaga ducked under the velvet rope at one point in the evening to dance among the plebs.
It was a fanfare-filled evening, but Wang’s collection left little to be excited about in the way of fashion.
This was surprising given that Wang has distinguished himself from other young designers with his business savvy: In 10 years, he went from being a little-known designer to an international brand generating a reported $100 million in revenue. He’s become something of a high-fashion retail darling, yet how many pairs of ripped Alexander Wang jean shorts does one need?
Earlier that night, another major retail brand, Banana Republic, delivered a fantastic collection of cool-girl office attire: impeccably tailored seersucker power suits, trenches layered playfully over striped long-sleeved tees and rolled-up jeans, and chunky necklaces worn over buttoned-up Oxford shirts.
Creative director Marissa Webb, who left J.Crew to start her own brand in 2013 and joined Banana Republic last year for its first collection shown at New York Fashion Week, has given the brand much-needed edge.
Webb, who wore an Oxford shirt with a bow tie loose around the collar, said her latest collection reflected her love of menswear for women. While Banana’s sales have continued to lag since Webb came on board, there’s hope yet with what she delivered last night--a prospect almost as exciting as gyrating pole dancers.