On Friday, Alexander Wang took to Midtown Manhattan — specifically, the plaza at Rockefeller Center — to stage his Collection 1 2020 runway show. It marked the second time the designer made his catwalk accessible to the public — the first instance being guerilla-style Spring 2018 shows during which models emerged from a party bus — and the collection invoked Americana (Wang's favorite theme these days) by paying homage to three iconic sportswear designers: Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
The accompanying beauty look, however, had a more eclectic range of inspirational touch points, with references to Sumo wrestlers, bull whips (!), the '70s, the '90s and a vintage Jet magazine cover each being cited by the backstage glam teams.
As with many of Wang's runways, the most striking aspect of the beauty look was the hair; let's not forget that this is the designer who, just last season, had his own logo ironed into models' strands. Duffy, the same hairstylist responsible for that aforementioned look, dreamed up four distinct hairstyles this time around. Working with Dyson tools and L'Oréal hair products, he and his team gave each model either tight, narrow cornrows; hip-length, leather-accessorized ponytails; stiff, glossy loops or wet-looking styles.
"The show is broken down essentially into four parts," explained the (very understandably exhausted) hairstylist backstage. "The first part is a very structured, slightly '70s suited overcoat silhouette, and for that we have 14 Black girls, all with braids. There's two types of braids that we've done. Alex wanted a clean silhouette, he wanted a very smooth head because he wanted every silhouette to be very clean and very graphic." That translated to tight cornrows, inspired by braided hairstyles of the '70s and one specific Jet cover from 1973 featuring Cecily Tyson. "It's a center parting and very, very graphic," said Duffy of the look.
A second section of models wore the whip-like braided ponytails: "The first eight girls have one single braid, with a center section and hair that drops hard over the ears, then it's a single braid down the back, and those girls have brown leather [accessories]. The second one is three braids, and they have black leather [accessories], because the second section is all black clothes."
Next came look three ("fuck, this is tiring," said Duffy as he got to this one): "The original reference was that Alex really loved the texture of Sumo hair; it's about the hard, iridescent, kind of reflective, graphic surface," he explained. The lacquered finish came courtesy of lots of hairspray and shine serum smoothed over strands. "The hair is then folded over in a loop; the tails are then out and soaked in hairspray... and clamped with a straightening iron."
Finally, for the fourth hairstyle (and fourth "section" of models in the show), Duffy went for a wet look. "The fourth section is Alex's 'gang,' the iconic girls that you know: Binx [Walton], Selena [Forrest], Lexi [Boling], Kendall [Jenner]... and I think they're all wearing white," he explained. "It almost looks as if they were dragged out of the water, it's super sexy, giving you lots of face, keeping the cheekbones out... I wanted them to feel sexy and individual, because we're creating kind of clones with the other looks."
The makeup, helmed by Diane Kendal for Nars, was far simpler, with an extremely subtle no-makeup effect that relied mostly on groomed brows, flushed cheeks and dewy, luminous skin. While she didn't bring up any specific cultural references, the makeup artist did cite a vague '90s affect to the makeup, in part because of the designers to which Wang was paying homage: "He's reimagining American sportswear now.... The '90s was mentioned a little bit for that kind of dewy effect on the skin, but that was it," she said backstage.
Kendal and her team created even, glowing skin with subtle contouring to enhance the impact of the models' cheekbones. "We're filling in eyebrows, on some girls we're making them a little bit more boyish," she noted. While all of the models in the show had a natural-looking flush (courtesy of Nars Liquid Blush in Orgasm) and a dewy finish to their skin, the final section of models were made to be especially luminous. "For the last section, section four, we're doing kind of dewy skin; the hair is all wet and swept back, we're doing gloss on the cheeks and on the eyelid, filling in the eyebrows, just making them look really thick and gorgeous and glistening and luminous," explained Kendal.
The nails were also minimalist, with Jin Soon Choi using four nude shades from her eponymous polish line: Dulcet, Demure, Nostalgia and Muse. "We tried to match them each to the models' skin tones," explained Choi. Then, because the designer "wanted a cool, more modernized spin" to the neutral nails, she topped the polish with Jin Soon Matte Maker Topcoat, noting that, unlike many other matte-finish polish formulas, hers is "very satin-finished, not dry. This gives more of a cool, sportswear look," said Choi.
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