Alexander Wang Faces Sexual Assault Allegations
Designer Allegedly Drugged and intimidated models
Alexander Wang, once one of American fashion’s brightest stars, is responding to allegations of sexual assault and harassment. On Tuesday, December 29, the modeling watchdog account @ShitModelMgmt posted a message to its feed alleging that Wang was “a sexual predator.” The statements, which include accounts of people being drugged against their will, groped, and raped, were supported by several anonymous messages sent to the account via DM, as well as by TikTok videos posted on December 11 and December 13 by the model and designer Owen Mooney, who said that he was groped by Wang at a club in 2017.
When Wang launched his business in 2007, his fame was almost instant. In 2009, the CFDA gave Wang the Swarovski Womenswear Designer of the Year Award, recognizing his downtown, model-off-duty aesthetic as a defining look of that moment. His infamous gas station party in 2009 was the first of many WangFests, which helped draw international attention to New York Fashion Week. By 2012, he was named the creative director of Balenciaga, taking over from Nicolas Ghesquière and becoming the rare American at the helm of a Parisian luxury brand. While that three-year tenure offered a sportier take on Balenciaga’s couture shapes, his eponymous label became synonymous with a carefree party girl lifestyle. He was the go-to designer for celebrities with irreverent taste, accompanying many starlets and models to the annual Met Gala.
Wang’s alleged misconduct has been discussed previously on social media as early as 2017 and within the trans community; several of Wang’s accusers are trans. A 2016 Vanity Fair video shows the musician Florence Welch explaining the designer’s “party trick” of offering people straight vodka as a glass of water, while in 2019, the musician Azealia Banks posted accounts of the designer groping trans women on her Instagram account. With recent coverage from @DietPrada, the New York Times, The Guardian, and Business of Fashion, the December allegations against Wang are being taken more seriously by the industry at large.
The designer provided a statement to Vogue about the allegations, which he also posted on his personal Instagram account: “Firstly, I’d like to take the opportunity to connect directly with the people who have helped me grow this brand into what it is today and address the recent false, fabricated, and mostly anonymous accusations against me. While I have always been active in my social life, frequently attending various industry gatherings, parties, and concerts where drugs and alcohol were present—contrary to what has been said, I have never taken advantage of others in a sexual manner or forced anything on anyone without consent. I also have never abused my status or fame for my own benefit. These baseless allegations were started on social media by sites which repeatedly disregarded the value and importance of evidence or fact checking. It’s my priority to prove these accusations are untrue and are fueled by solely opportunistic motives. It is important for people to speak up and be heard but there is a need to ensure accusations are credible, so that we don’t harm these important causes. Our team is doing everything in its power to investigate these claims and we promise to remain honest and transparent throughout that process. We are fortunate to have received an overwhelming amount of support over the last few days and are thankful to our staff, clients, and industry peers for standing by our side at this time.
The people accusing Wang of sexual harassment and assault are planning potential legal action. Lisa Bloom, the well-known lawyer who has represented many victims of sexual assault, is representing several of them. In an email to Vogue, Bloom wrote, “The fashion industry is long overdue for a reckoning of its frequent, disturbing mistreatment of models. I’ve represented many alleging sexual misconduct in recent years, including against Paul Marciano, Bruce Weber, and others. Models are not props, and they have the same rights to workplace respect as everyone else.” She added, “I thank everyone who has reached out in support, and I’m happy to speak for free and confidentially to any others, including witnesses.”
Mooney, who came forward on TikTok, told Business of Fashion in a statement, “Over the several years since it happened, I have never kept what happened to me a secret. I have always been very open and vocal to friends and family about it. Most of my close ones know this is something that happened to me ... I was sickened and shocked I was not the only victim of his behavior. So, I felt it was necessary to stand with these people and say his name out loud.”
The public relations firm representing Wang sent several testimonials from people within the fashion industry in support of the designer. Alice Barlow, the CEO of the production company Barlow and Sons that counts the brand as a client said: “I produced multiple Alexander Wang runway shows and parties (both [for his] brand and personal) over the past few years and have personally witnessed and heard only positive praise for Alex and his professionalism.”
Heather Hughes, an agent at Elite Model Management, wrote: “Alex and I have known each other for almost 15 years. We have collaborated closely on many projects over the years. He always treats models as human beings, and celebrates who they are as people. His hard work has led to much success, yet he remains one of the kindest people in our business.”
Many others have come out in support of the alleged victims, including The Model Alliance, an organization that advocates for the fair treatment of models in the fashion industry and has brought many other instances of abuse within the modeling world to light.