“Why aren’t more fashion news outlets reporting about Alexander Wang?” It’s a question that’s been asked quietly for years, but gained momentum this month after the combined forces of Diet Prada and Shit Model Management Instagram pages picked up on TikTok videos posted by a male model accusing the designer of non consensually groping him at a New York City club in 2017.
Alexander Wang is one of the most revered names within the industry. Wang began his Alexander Wang fashion brand in 2005 and came to prominence after being awarded the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2008. Wang is known for his urban-inspired designs and use of black. He boasts a significant celebrity following, having designed red carpet looks for Bella Hadid, Dua Lipa and more. If you browse the internet, there are countless shots of Wang partying and posing with his celebrity friends, red cup in hand.
If the silence that has followed the accusations pitted against Wang paired with the designer’s subsequent statements has taught us anything, it’s that most platforms and figures within the fashion industry are either still unwilling or too afraid to hold much-needed conversations about sexual abuse, specifically of male and trans victims.
Allegations of Alexander Wang’s sexually predatory behaviour towards male and trans models brought forward by Owen Mooney, a model who shared his story via a series of TikToks, prompted other anonymous individuals with similar stories, both personal and anecdotal, to come forward. The accusations against Wang and stories of his party tactics, which Vogue traces as far back as 2016, have begun to be taken more seriously by the industry at large and gained coverage from news outlets like The New York Times, The Guardian, and Business of Fashion.
The stories range from people being groped by Alexander Wang to Wang drugging or forcing party-goers to get drunk and go to “after-parties” with him. Other accounts of victims, among them trans men and women, include having their genitals exposed by Wang and being slipped MDMA without their knowledge. It’s not clear how many models have made allegations against Wang at this stage.
Diet Prada outlines in their social media posts that Wang, a notorious party-goer himself, has built his brand on an “anything goes” ethos. That is often reflected in his collections, which featured “WANGOVER” and “PARTY ANIMAL” headbands in SS18. In 2017, Wang made R. Kelly one of the faces of his SS17 campaign. The allegations against R. Kelly had already been part of public discourse for quite some time by then.
“Well we’ve seen it happen, with #MeToo. How about #UsToo?”
“Well we’ve seen it happen, with #MeToo. How about #UsToo?” asked Mooney, in an Instagram post. Mooney used his platform to question the role gender has to play in the case against Wang: “I can’t help but question if this has something to do with this being about men, queer and trans people? Does the ideology that we are not victims of sexual assault exist? What would the response be if a world-renowned fashion designer was drugging and sexually assaulting cis women?”
The term #UsToo which was first penned by lawyer and author Sophia Nelson in 2017 as a way to make #MeToo conversations racially inclusive, is now gender inclusive too. The #UsToo movement is a wakeup call. It’s not typical for men to come to the forefront about sexual abuse, and there are many reasons behind this – influence of toxic masculinity, fear of not being believed, the fear of ridicule, the danger of career annihilation or the possible feelings of shame, guilt, denial, common in these incidents.
Male and trans models are often overlooked in the conversations of sexual assault in the modelling industry and #UsToo gives them a voice. It’s time for us to question if we are really as inclusive as we purport to be, and if we are prioritising certain voices over others.
Wang’s representatives have reached out to several publications, including Vogue and The New York Times, providing a statement which the designer also shared on the brands account. In Highsnobiety’s most recent article, Senior News Editor, Heather Snowden, picks apart the designers public statements on the accusations:
“Here’s what Wang said across two separate statements (points for discussion are numbered in brackets).
“Over the last few days, I have been on the receiving end (1) of baseless (2) and grotesquely false (3) accusations. These claims have been wrongfully amplified (4) by social media accounts infamous (5) for posting defamatory material (6) from undisclosed and/or anonymous sources (7) with zero evidence (8) or any fact-checking whatsoever (9). Seeing these lies (10) about me being perpetuated as truths has been infuriating (11). I have never engaged (12) in the atrocious behaviour (13) described and would never (14) conduct myself in the manner that’s been alleged. I intend to get to the bottom of this and hold accountable (15) whoever is responsible for originating these claims and viciously spreading them online.”
“In points 1 and 10, Wang recenter’s himself in this discussion as the victim. In 11, 12, 13, and 14, he shames the alleged behaviour while distancing himself from it and rather paints a picture of the person he would like the public to see. In points 2, 3, and 10, he discredits the chorus of voices that say they have been abused and traumatised by his actions. In 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, he discredits and makes assumptions about publications that have reported on stories that are not in his favour. And in the final 15th point, he issues a threat to the alleged victims.”
Highsnobiety accuses Wang and his representatives of using tactics like gas lighting, discrediting and devaluing to quieten the anonymous victims that have spoken out. The publication defends the anonymous victims, highlighting how Wang is in the position of power, in having both financial resources and access to institutions that confer power.
Those calling the fashion designer out have no plans to stop. “I have no sympathy for abusers,” the Shit Model Management admin told PAPER. “I think that Alexander Wang wants all of this to blow over, but I’m not letting up until I see actual change. If he gets away with this, it will make abusers feel safe and feel like they can continue to get away with it too. Just because Alexander Wang is famous doesn’t mean that he is untouchable.
“He needs to be held accountable as much as every other abuser in the industry. Celebrities need to speak up and stop supporting him, as well. All of the celebs that were just wishing him happy birthday are silent right now. Where is the support for the survivors? I believe that these claims should be taken seriously.”
Model Alliance has also stood up out of respect for Wang’s accusers, offering anyone who needs support a platform for filing formal complaints in the industry. “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,” the post reads.
Wang has turned off the comments on his latest Instagram post. The official Instagram account for the Alexander Wang brand also appears to have turned comments off at the time of writing. Wang is taking no culpability for the accusations and intends to fight them in the effort to exonerate his name, and by extension, his brand.
This article does not intend to expose or tear Alexander Wang down but to talk about the power struggle in the fashion industry and the continuing silence surrounding male victims. Even though the sexual abuse of men in the fashion industry has been around for far too long, it has never really made headlines as it is with the growing Alexander Wang case.
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Cover Image: Paco May