On Saturday, Alexander Wang took over One Hanson Place, a historic building in Brooklyn, to present "Collection 2 2018." It marked the designer's second time showing on his new schedule (having shown "Collection 1" in June), and the backstage vibe was once again quite laid-back, with models and press luxuriating in the lack of harried energy associated with running around to a series of different shows, as one would during New York Fashion Week.
But that didn't mean the backstage beauty teams weren't hard at work putting together a spectacular, Wang-level show. In fact, there was a lot going on with the hair and makeup for Collection 2, and in true Wang fashion, it drew on the '90s, New York City streetwear and a very specific cool factor, with nods to logomania and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. But in case you thought Wang had run out of ways to incorporate throwback vibes into a beauty look, we have three words for you: Branded. Crimping. Iron. More on that in a moment.
Lead hairstylist Duffy (for Dyson) and his team created a series of four different looks, each signifying different "characters" for the various sections of the show. "There's an uptown WASP — I don't know if I'm allowed to say that — but that's kind of the girl, sort of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy; we've got a downtown, kind of punk girl, with a bit of '90s hip hop character... And then we've got a cross-pollination of the two, which is, I suppose, the unification of the Wang girl," he said in an interview backstage.
The first of these four distinct looks was a super-smooth Bessette-esque blowout with blunt ends and tidy headbands — after all, if there's one thing we've learned over the past few seasons, it's that Alexander Wang loves a throwback hair accessory. To get the "understated wealth" effect, as Duffy put it, he and his team relied on Dyson's Supersonic Hair Dryer Professional Edition and a round bristle brush, using the tool to shape hair flat against the head with absolutely no volume at the roots. After raking Redken Full Frame 07 Mousse through models' hair and blow-drying it smooth, he pulled the front of the hair back toward the crown "to accentuate the eyebrow and the cheekbone." And the length was important to getting the look just so: "It sits in the middle of the shoulder blades, and the extensions are clipped for one length," said Duffy.
On the opposite end of the spectrum were the "downtown" models, who wore exaggerated pigtails pulled taut against the head with a center part. "The placement is where, I suppose, the antennae would sit on the head on an animal. It's not so high up that it's Harajuku girl; it's not [low down] like school girl [hair], it's right on the corners of the head, so you still create that very square, strong silhouette," explained Duffy. The lengths of the pigtails (which also incorporated long extensions) were lacquered with lots of product — L'Oréal Infinium or Bumble and Bumble Does It All Hairspray — and then clamped down repeatedly with flatirons, creating stiff individual "shards" of about two-inches.
There was also a half-up style with a very sleek crown and the same "shard" effect, which Duffy referred to as a "mixture of the two." For a few of the Black models with natural hair textures — specifically Anok Yai and Adut Akech, Duffy and his team forwent heat styling, instead weaving their hair into cornrows along the scalp and then adding extensions to create the "shard" effect. "We're trying to not use any heat at all on their hair and work with certain products and certain techniques that mean that we're being respectful of the condition of their hair," he noted.
The most jaw-dropping hairstyle, however, was the one that drew on fashion's perennial buzzword, logomania. Four models wore their straight hair with the Alexander Wang "W" embossed — yes, embossed — into it using heat. "I've burned my hands a lot, I've burned some hair, I've burned a lot of things this week, but we managed to figure it out," joked Duffy some what wearily backstage.
"Alex loves the '90s, the '90s are about branding," he added. "He sent me a picture of a very old crimper from the early '90s that had, like, stars and things like that right before Thanksgiving and said, 'Can we do this?' And I had three days to figure it out."
To get the right tools to create the rather impressive effect, Duffy turned to his brother, who happens to be a jeweler in London. "He made me brass plates, a positive and a negative, that we heated up in an old ceramic curling iron oven. We're basically crimping it into the hair," he said. "I knew you were going to ask me all about it," Duffy somewhat exasperatedly told the backstage reporters. Sounds like we can't expect to find Wang-branded crimpers on beauty shelves anytime soon, so you may not want to try this one at home.
The accompanying makeup look by Diane Kendal for Nars was much simpler, though it channeled the same uptown/downtown duality as the hair. "[It's] Carolyn Bessette mixed with street girls," said Kendal backstage. All of the models, save for a few who chose not to, had their brows bleached to a muted hue that blended in with their skin tones. Kendal then created a very subtly contoured eye and face look, using Nars eye shadow in Sophia and Hammamet (from the brand's Ignited Eyeshadow palette) in the crease of the eyes, one coat of Nars Climax Mascara on the top lashes only While most of the models simply wore sheer lip balm, four wore a very bold lip color, specifically Nars Spiked Audacious Lipstick in Siouxie. "It's like a really deep kind of red-y black with a lot of blue in it. It's nice, it's like Siouxie and the Banshees," said Kendal.
For the nails, Alicia Torello turned to some of Essie's most classic and beloved shades: Wicked layered over Bordeaux (for an effect the nail artist described as "black, but with a little bit of the richness of the red to it") or Mademoiselle layered over Topless and Barefoot for a natural pinkish-beige tone.
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