The symbolism was impossible to avoid. At 5 p.m. this evening, Alexander Wang debuted his latest collection to a packed house in midtown. At 6 p.m.—or thereabouts, since it was a long, traffic-jammed drive between venues—Miguel Adrover returned to the fashion stage with a show at Teatro Latea on the Lower East Side, where he presented his famous Quentin Crisp collection 12 years ago. Today, Wang is the paradigm of up-and-coming New York designers: A commercial juggernaut, with his supply chain and streetwise merchandising firmly in hand. A dozen years before, the paradigm was Adrover, a pauper stitching together garments from an old mattress. Times—needless to say—have changed.
Adrover's goal this evening was an ambitious one: More or less, he wished to stage a fashion revolution, one inspired by the fresh leaves being turned over in the Middle East. As he put it after the show, he wanted "to lose contact with fashion as it is now, and to set forth a new vocabulary." It's hard to argue with a guy who comes over as a cross between Jesus and Pan, but it seems fair to point out that the clothes he showed tonight had a pretty familiar vocabulary, one he essentially established himself. That said, it was nice to be refreshed on it; more than a few designers, Wang included, have played with Adrover's ideas over the years, but seeing his dresses made from backwards button-downs, suit jackets, and baseball caps was like sitting in on a deconstruction master class. Adrover is an incomparable imagineer, as they say at Disney; he sees potential for interesting volumes in the most mundane garments, and uses all his marvelous skill as a tailor and patternmaker to bring those visions to life.
But the most intriguing pieces on the runway tonight were the ones that witnessed Adrover's contact with street style, both local and far afield. There were his drooped, hip-hop redolent trousers and stacked baseball caps; and eerily beautiful, brightly colored burka dresses. It would have been nice to see him pursuing more of those experiments, rather than, say, sending out a tunic covered with sock-puppet cats. (Attack! Attack!) Another quibble: the models tossing out Cuban peso notes as they sidled down the catwalk. This is the kind of thing that gives fashion people a reputation as un-deep thinkers. Adrover isn't glib, but in some ways his critique of the commercialization of fashion felt thin, and the strewn bills underlined that impression. Rage against the machine, by all means, but the leveling blow will always come from the rager who's worked to understand it.