The designer’s Rockefeller Center show—the first ever held at the venue, he proudly noted, and a spot extremely well-suited for the kind of public-facing event he’s tried to pull off in the past—was divided into sections.
Donna Karan got the Wang treatment to start. Decades after she did them, her bold shoulders and no-fuss stretch jersey bodysuits still signal power—a testament to how groundbreaking her early collections were. Logo tees, denim in ’90s-ish light blue washes, and underwear as outerwear were the Calvin Klein codes Wang picked up on. Of the trinity, Wang’s chilled-out, sexy aesthetic is most closely aligned with Klein’s, only here a shy Pete Davidson of Saturday Night Live fame stood in for Marky Mark, and did a rather irresistible job of it. Ralph Lauren-isms like flannel plaid, mile-long suede fringe, and wide-wale corduroy are rare sights on a Wang runway. That might be why the Lauren section proved the most compelling; change trumps continuity, and the cut of the corduroy blazers was good.
The fourth part of the show was all white and heavily logo’d. It could’ve been mistaken for an ode to Tommy Hilfiger, a designer who would’ve liked to make the trinity a quaternity, but Wang said it was a tribute to suffragettes, who often wore the color. There’s no escaping the sense that the United States are in jeopardy in 2019, so it wasn’t hard to appreciate the sentiment of solidarity Wang seemed eager to convey with his multiracial casting and straightforward referencing of American fashion greats, even if this kind of overt lifting wouldn’t have flied in Calvin, Ralph, and Donna’s heyday.
Wang brought his mom and dad out for a bow at the end of the show, and underneath them the LED runway was striped red and white like Old Glory. Fashion plays out on a much bigger stage than it did 35 years ago. Wang understands that and he’s quite agile at its entertainment aspect. Yes, this was theater, but it was a feel-good moment nonetheless, fusing family and patriotism. We don’t get many of those these days.