As thunderclaps erupted over New York's Hudson River on Saturday evening, the lights at Alexander Wang's Spring 2013 show switched off and the runway was plunged into darkness. Suddenly, in a dramatic revelation, the clothes came alive: the dominant whites of the collection became phosphorescent.
The rave-indebted blacklight trickery at Pier 94 provided a great finale and winked at Wang's love affair with dance music, but his designs held their own throughout the show. After seasons of hit-or-miss experimentation, New York's most popular young designer seems to have located his true mien: industrial elegance. Spring 2013 is a stern season for him, with lots of black and white dresses and separates with surgically precise laser cuts, all underscoring the designer's new fascination with "dissection." The intended look here, like many lines seen this week, was a long and lean silhouette, with attenuated torsos providing a desirable focus. Models' hair was worn slicked back, parted and painted neon; the makeup was minimal and clean. The most overtly sexual flourish came courtesy of the footwear: strappy knee-length gladiator sandals that brought Givenchy's famous open-work bondage boots of 2009 to mind.
Wang's music was chic, too: a hyper mix of rap and juke punctuated the room, and A$AP Rocky and Die Antwoord watched the proceedings from the front row. Later that night, both artists performed rambunctious sets at Wang's impressive Tribeca afterparty. Held inside an old, tavern-like converted bank near City Hall, the A-list party featured drinks poured by bartenders at teller desks, Polaroids snaps and ice cream treats. (Wang's always had a thing for circus culture.)
Around midnight, Die Antwoord exploded onstage amid a flurry of wild video projections, with frontwoman/hype girl Yolandi Visser flouncing about in evil eye makeup and a laser-cut Wang swimsuit. The set was relentlessly aggressive and included a cover of "This Is Why I'm Hot" but not the act's own hit, "Enter the Ninja." The crowd, more savvy to Vogue than Pitchfork, seemed to vaguely recognize the curious South African hip-hop duo from 2010 blog hype, or perhaps just from their video collaboration with the designer last year. But as the blacklight spectacle of his show reminded us, it wouldn't be a Wang event without a surprise: just when everyone thought the evening was over, Busta Rhymes materialized from thin air and rocked the ecstatic crowd well past 3 a.m.