The fashion world may be scratching its collective head over Alexander Wang’s latest musical obsession, the controversial South African “Zef” group Die Antwoord; as we recently reported, they are now the unlikely stars of his new T by Alexander Wang campaign. However, the scrappy yet skillfully art-directed pop insurgents – whose politics and aesthetic choices triggered a good deal of 2010’s most heated online musical discussion – actually seem perfectly, even presciently, fit for the task. After all, they predated a few of fashion’s most prominent current obsessions – as Wang declared to Elle, who spotlighted the collaboration, “Where music leads, I follow.”
He’s not the only one. Those fashion types on a quest to replicate Rooney Mara’s short bangs in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Note frontwoman Yo-Landi Visser’s sharp hairdo: her gaunt, browless and blunt-banged look has been a stubborn signature for years, a harbinger of a look that has only just fallen into mass favor. Meanwhile, while high-fashion shoots and runways currently revel in generously inked, wraithlike young men – and as Lana Del Rey’s video man-for-hire, Brad Soileau, becomes a living Tumblr meme – Die Antwoord frontman Ninja has already nailed that combo, too. In fact, Die Antwoord’s generally bald and rakish appearance makes them organic fodder for the fashion crowd. When exploring the group’s aesthetic appeal, Elle notes, “That they cut an indelible figure – raw and disconcerting – can’t hurt either.”
That’s exactly what Wang wants his clothes to feel like: edgy and effortless, something that can’t be bought (unless, of course, you buy it from him). Like Marc Jacobs, he is among New York’s most musically savvy designers and enjoys a healthy alliance with that world. Also like Jacobs, he uses music and its notable figures to heighten the implications of his designs; he once played the Prodigy on his runway while showing mini-kilts, reinforcing the Nineties revival. Santigold, Diplo and Spank Rock have enjoyed runs as T for Alexander Wang ambassadors (and, as with Die Antwoord, their statuses in the style industry lagged slightly behind their intial wave of web fame). Wang’s lavishly budgeted after-parties, now regarded as the coolest of any New York Fashion Week, have attracted fiery veterans (Courtney Love) and upstarts (Odd Future) alike to the stage.
So yes, Wang does “follow” music, in both senses of the word. But what do Die Antwoord themselves make of it all?
“His T-shirts have turned me into a wimp,” Ninja told Elle. Still, his complaint seems like a humblebrag. Added Yo-Landi, “You can’t wear another T-shirt after it; his feel so expensive.” In thanks, they’ve even namechecked the designer in their lyrics for “Hey Sexy,” from new album, Ten$ion: “I know how to get da dough/I know how to spend da dough/Rockin’ Alexander Wang from head to toe,” they boast, before spearheading the hedonism that brings fashion and music together: “I like partying, partying, partying, damn/Ask my man Alexander Wang.”
Watch the video for Die Antwoord video for Alexander Wang’s T Campaign below: