BTS: Alexander Wang denies allegations of sexual assault
By: Mollie Stark
TW: sexual assault
Last week, accounts of predatory and reckless behaviour swirled around New York fashion designer Alexander Wang.
Photo by: Lexie Moreland
It started when model Owen Mooney made a TikTok describing an encounter he had with Wang at the popular New York City nightclub Slake. “I was by myself at one point and this guy next to me obviously took advantage of the fact that no one could fucking move, and he just started touching me up,” Mooney alleged. “Fully up my leg, in my crotch. It made me freeze completely because I was in so much shock.” In his videos, which were widely shared on other platforms, Mooney explains how he was prompted to expose the designer after coming across other recounts of Wang’s behaviour. Wang’s lawyer denies this, saying he “believes Mooney is mistaken about who allegedly groped him.” Mooney continues to stand by his story, saying in a recent video “People with this kind of status, they think their power gives them a pass to do this to people. It’s so wrong. Any time I see his name mentioned, it just reminds me of what he did.”
The video got picked up by two instagram accounts with a cult following: Diet Prada, created in 2014 by two fashion industry professionals, Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, and Sh*t Model Management (SMM), an account dedicated to being an informer to the inner world of the modelling industry. There were also screenshots that circulated with anonymous claims that Wang liked to lace drinks with Molly, a party variety of MDMA. Both watchdog accounts also worked to shed light on previous repeat allegations of Wang groping, harassing, and exposing the genitals of several trans women.
One such account comes from Gia Garrison, a trans runway model and actor. Garrison recounts the experience at the same NYC nightclub, saying “It was just another night and then I remember being introduced to Alexander Wang and then chatting to him. I just remembered dancing around and he was chillin with his posse and then reached for my bikini bottoms I was wearing and tried to tug them downwards. I said: ‘what are you doing, what the fuck,’ and stepped away. I didn’t make much of it in the moment because I was just in club-mode and tried to let things brush off my shoulder and not ruin my night… I’ve done many shoots where they’ve wanted to put me in his clothing since and I’ve just said no.”
The prominent designer has built his brand with a “no-rules” mantra, bringing athleisure and streetwear into the lexicon of high-fashion. For the past decade, Wang has pushed the boundaries of what is considered fashion, creating “walk of shame” inspired campaigns, letting comedian Pete Davidson appear on the SS20 catwalk, and alarmingly casting singer R.Kelly to star in the SS17 campaign. The shocking campaign, titled “Beyond Reality,” came just days after the singer was acquitted in an extensive child pornography case. Wang and his team made the claim that the photos were meant to “blur the line between fantasy and reality, presenting a unique observation on the superficial with a thought-provoking commentary on society’s current obsessions with speculation: Did that happen? Did it not? What was real and what was fabricated?”
Wang’s ad campaigns
Not shy of spectacle, Wang’s runway shows are known to be sprawling extravagant public affairs followed by exclusive after-parties. The designer’s notable party-figure status in New York City gives an almost mythical air to him and his glittering crew of models, creatives, musicians, and designers. He often makes allusions to his hard-partying lifestyle, with models strutting the SS18 runway in headbands that read “PARTY ANIMAL” and “WANGOVER.” #WangFest was the designer’s elaboration of NYFW: 3 shows, 3 locations, and a chaotic after-party scene in Bushwick where attendees rubbed shoulders with the likes of the Hadids, Tinashe, Maeve Reilly, and more while getting to see featured performers Asap Ferg, Vince Staples, Cardi B, Ja Rule and Ashanti. Hard-partying has become part of the undone glamour of Wang’s brand, but in light of the allegations, it paints a wary eye in the background.
Photos by: Shawn Brackbill
Subsequent to Mooney’s and the unidentified claims being posted across the internet, Wang has limited the comments on both his personal and fashion labels Instagram, stating, “Over the past few days, I have been on the receiving end of baseless and grotesquely false accusations. These claims have been wrongfully amplified by social media accounts infamous for posting defamatory material from undisclosed and/or anonymous sources with zero evidence or any fact-checking whatsoever. Seeing these lies about me being perpetuated as truths has been infuriating. I have never engaged in the atrocious behavior described and would never conduct myself in the manner that’s been alleged. I intend to get to the bottom of this and hold accountable whoever is responsible for originating these claims and viciously spreading them online.”
It is well known that the fashion industry in particular is a prime environment for sexual abuse. Models often fight an uphill battle to have their voices heard, which is why Model Alliance, a fair-treatment advocacy group, announced that it “stands in solidarity with those who have shared accusations of sexual abuse by Alexander Wang” in a Tuesday post, continuing to read: “…Let’s be clear: The fashion industry’s lack of transparency and accountability leaves all models vulnerable to abuse, regardless of their sex or gender identity.”
Models are working to express a vision that is not theirs, and this is inherently objectifying at some level. The model’s point of view, their feeling about the work they carry on their body, isn’t the focus for those attending a fashion show. The audience of a fashion exposition is there to see the work of the artist who designed the clothes the model wears as they walk down the runway. For Wang and other high-fashion designers, with every dollar they make, deal they sign, celebrity they work with- it’s all a confirmation to them that what they have created, what they have to say, is much more valuable than what anyone else is doing.
However, this case is only the latest in a series of sexual assault allegations that have rocked the fashion industry in recent years. The question becomes how much blame can be placed on the fashion industry at large for facilitating sexual misconduct. While trans and non-binary models are somewhat new to the high-fashion scene, they have always been the most underprotected group when it comes to sexual violence. A 2015 survey found that nearly forty-seven percent of transgender people will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. Regardless of whether Wang is guilty of the allegations, our attitude toward predatory behaviour in creative industries- whether that be in the world of film, photography, music, fashion, etc.- will set a precedent for moving forward. If there was a time to ask questions, now is good as ever to start. How long will it take to create a safe environment for queer models to speak out? How far can clout and status be stretched to conceal ill-natured actions? Where is the line between crossing boundaries creatively and being insensitive? Is there room for a judge of character in the world of arts? Whose voices matter most? You decide.