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A New Take on American Beauty for Alexander Wang's 'Collection 1' Show

It's Alexander Wang's America, and we're just living in it.
Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

South Street Seaport in the summer is a tourist's delight. And, for a brief few hours on June 3, it was a fashion lover's, too, as Alexander Wang unveiled his first show on the pre-collection schedule. The designer took the opportunity to change the narrative and disrupt the fashion conventions we've all abided by for so long. Gone were any sort of references to specific seasons; instead, the show was entitled simply, "Collection One 2018."

Beauty press and PR were still a bit discombobulated by the move as many seemed to have to remind themselves that it was a Sunday in June and that there were no other shows to sprint across town to after this one. It felt both strange and oddly calming backstage — no one felt rushed or harried; the hair and makeup teams were cheerfully going about their prepping; and the models didn't have that usual glazed look in their eyes that results from bouncing from show to show. The venue itself, Pier 17, was gigantic, which allowed for everyone to co-exist without feeling on top of each other or constantly in the way.

It also allowed for Wang's typical beauty team — lead hairstylist Guido Palau (working with Dyson and Redken) and lead makeup artist Diane Kendal (there with Nars) — to do something a little different from the usual downtown party girl we've become accustomed to seeing on the designer's runway. Both got a bit more conceptual — or, at least as much as one can while still maintaining a version of Wang's signature off-duty model aesthetic.

Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

The theme of the show was Americana, but that interpretation meant a few different things to everyone. For Palau, it meant straight-but-not hair accentuated with bandanas — more than a few editors referenced Axl Rose upon seeing the final looks, but Palau did not cite him as an inspiration. He described the hair as "nothing-y, but not wavy nothing-y; straight nothing-y." In layman's terms, that meant unpolished hair that lacked defined shape, but with none of the bedhead/beach waves that "undone" usually connotes.

Palau used Dyson's newly unveiled Supersonic professional hairdryer, relying on the precision nozzle to focus the heat on the roots as he brushed the hair to remove any natural curl or bend. He then took a flatiron to a handful of sections to create a clear juxtaposition between glossy, straight and what we're calling textured straight. As far as products, he prepped hair by smoothing Redken's No Blow Dry Cream through strands, and then blasted it with a hit of Redken Shine Flash 02 before wrapping the bandanas around models' heads, all of which fastened with snaps instead of having to be tied.

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Five models skipped the Axl treatment and instead received intricate braids that were individualized for the wearer. One had a pattern of stars, while Wang Squad regular Binx Walton had her name braided into the back of her head. "We've seen so many braids," said Palau. "We tried to do something they haven't seen and show what braiding techniques you can do."

Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking of stars, Kendal went all out to create an artistic look that was a departure from the usual no-makeup makeup that has often been Wang's go-to. Well, sort of: The majority of the models were done with the usual "fresh skin and groomed brows," (created using lots of moisturizers, a touch Nars Longwear Foundation and Radiant Concealer, the soon-to-launch Brow Perfector and Orgasm Afterglow Lip Balm), but seven girls were given graphic, all-over face designs meant to resemble the face paint worn by "sporting game fanatics."

Kendal opted to do the designs in black, skipping the bright colors usually associated with diehard sports fans on game day: "We tried it with color in the test, but it looked kitschy." Meant to be interpreted as a celebration of America, Kendal's version of stars and stripes involved bands of black across the face with negative-space stars. 

To avoid smudging or sweating, the designs were done closer to showtime and achieved by affixing multiple lines of tape across the face. In the gaps between the tape, Kendal placed a smattering of star stickers, then used Nars Flibuste Velvet Shadow Stick to color in each section and Las Pozas Velvet Eyeliner to define the lines of the stripes. Once dry, both the tape and stickers were peeled off, leaving models with an abstract monochromatic flag that played perfectly into Wang's sophisticated celebration of America.

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