Alexander Wang: Biting the hand that feeds him?
Everyone seems to be doing “Secret Projects” these days; from Madonna and Steven Klein to Alexander Wang. Briefly, Wang’s secret project was an unstaged (yet highly contrived) video for T by Alexander Wang fall campaign. In said video, fans are invited to a secret location for a special event; cue the long line up of young fashion lovers outside a warehouse location in New York. Upon entering the space, fans are greeted by a large screen projection with Alexander Wang’s face looming large – very Big Brother 1984 (not CBS). With a sweet angelic face, Wang announces that these fans will have access to as much free Alexander Wang product they can get their (greedy) hands on. I could almost hear him say, “Happy Hunger Games, may the odds be ever in your favor”.
Many online postings have simply pointed the finger and laughed at the ‘silly’ actions of others, while few have pointed the finger back at all of us. I would argue that Wang and Director Darren Stein (Jawbreaker) purposely used this opportunity to create a viral video that we all find amusing but that is also deeply imbued with social commentary. This video is very reminiscent of the real time videos that captured customers mauling each other over H&M designer collaborations. We all saw the videos of Dutch customers punching each other out to get the latest designer-for-less clothes that H&M has become known for. I even remember my own personal experience at one of these launches; watching people push and fight and verbally abuse one another over clothing left a bad taste in my mouth. I remember thinking, as many others did, people in the world are fighting to beat hunger or survive in the midst of wars and genocides while privileged kids are fighting over t-shirts. This was long before the term First World Problems was coined as social commentary. This twitter-based hash tag was meant to be slightly cheeky but also self-reflexive of one’s own privilege; but its many re-uses have re-defined this ‘well-intended’ term. In the end, it rings hollow; it is a cop out to continue in your own selfish ego-centric ways. It is false and condescending.
With all that in mind, it is interesting that Wang decided to revisit this idea years later (even H&M has changed their designer launch policies to end such ‘fighting’). It would be interesting to hear what Wang intended with this video: he set the stage to practically guarantee that first world privileged kids would fight over the (made in China) ‘affordable luxury’ of T by Alexander Wang. Even without knowing his motivations, I would argue that Wang is creating a social commentary, intended or not, about the world we now live in – the ‘West’ is still completely unaware of the price paid by the rest of the world for the lifestyle they take for granted. It is always dangerous when brands or designers tread in this territory but from the social commentaries that have emerged it seems to have worked perfectly for Wang – no one took offense, they only laughed. The first world is still hiding in it’s #FirstWorldProblems semantics.