Alexander Wang goes urban gothic in disused NY theater

New York (AFP) - King of cool Alexander Wang ditched the bright lights and glitzy skyscrapers of New York to stage his latest fashion show against a backdrop of crumbling decay in a disused Harlem theater.

Celebrity guests Kylie Jenner, rapper Tyga, Zoe Kravitz and ASAP Rocky were among those whisked to the RKO Hamilton Theater -- miles from the ritzy downtown haunts favored by the style glitterati during fashion week.

The former cinema, in what is now a gentrifying neighborhood, has been through previous incarnations as a church, an arena, a disco and retail space, perhaps exemplifying the rise and fall of urban communities hard hit by the collapse of manufacturing across America.

Its location in West Harlem's Hamilton Heights had another subliminal message of cool: it takes its name from Alexander Hamilton, the founding father and inspiration for Broadway's hottest ticket in town "Hamilton," who lived in the area when it was farmland.

The show opened with a thumping beat and blue strobe lighting, as the models stomped out in Wang's signature black and sharply tailored urban cool, all messy hair, tight leather and gothic eye make-up.

It was a conservative look, with just a hint of cleavage. Models of the moment Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner were among those who powered down the criss-crossing runway, the lights flashing over the decayed backdrop that made it look like a grandiose nightclub from the past.

Wang, the young superstar who defines downtown cool, stuck to his playbook of black, black and yet more black punctuated by occasional grey tweed, animal print and silver metallic fringes on breast pockets.

If it was generally body hugging, it was also conservative by fashion standards: necklines were largely high, and cropped shorts and mini rah-rah skirts worn over tight leather leggings.

T-shirts were similarly layered over tight long leather sleeves while silver studs decorated the waist line of pants, and jersey dresses made sexy with a diagonal cut over legging-encased thighs.

- Cosmic -

French sportswear label Lacoste was inspired by space for its last show in New York before relocating to Paris in September as part of a wider exodus of New York stalwarts in search of fresh climes.

"This is a look into the future," explained Portuguese designer Felipe Oliveira Baptista. The runway was decorated to mimic Mars with sand and rock formation littered on the ground.

"Looking at the future is also a way of being more optimistic," said Baptista, perhaps another nod to the uncertain times.

The idea of "a cosmic voyage" was rooted in founder Rene Lacoste's foray into the aircraft industry, setting up a company that contributed to developing the Concorde and Airbus aviation programs.

- Trump that -

While opposition to President Donald Trump has characterized many a runway show this season, a Chinese designer was delighted to embrace at least one member of the first family.

Tiffany Trump, the youngest daughter of the president, sat front row at Taoray Wang accompanied by mother Marla Maples just weeks after wearing the up-and-coming Shanghai label to her father's inauguration.

Wang Tao said her clients had been delighted to see Trump kitted out in the brand and gave little thought to a refusal from some designers to dress the first lady because of her husband's politics.

"I would rather focus on personal qualities and characters, rather than labeling them," she told AFP backstage. "I'm very open minded. I cooperate with international celebrities and all these leaders."

The fall/winter 2017 collection starred her modern take on classic suiting, with a unique twist of East meets West, and an empowering masculine look made feminine when paired with delicate lace negligees.

She sent down the runway black jackets, military-style double breasted coats and wide-legged tweed pants -- a powerful look made sexy with knee-high platform boots, lace underlay and pink silk lining on coats.