Photo: Courtesy of Uniqlo.
There are few things that can wake me up in the middle of the night, but a series of emails announcing the Alexander Wang for H&M collection was enough to get me sitting straight up in bed. For me, designer collaborations are almost a way of life. Sure, I've waited in line for Margiela for H&M, literally ran across the floor to grab a Missoni for Target piece, and have trawled eBay looking for the one Duro Olowu suitcase I missed out on the first time around. But, it goes back way further than that. Target's Go International collections provided the basis of my wardrobe in high school. And, when Karl Lagerfeld announced a collaboration with H&M, I literally plotted out a reason to ask my parents to reroute our family vacation to Chicago — which housed the closest participating store — over 400 miles away.
These huge, blockbuster collaborations are basically etched into fashion history. But, the most meaningful designer collaboration that I've ever bought was basically a blip on the scene, and something most people don't even realized existed. It was a tiny, five-piece collection of dresses by a relatively unknown designer way back in 2008, and the reason I'll be first in line for when Alexander Wang drops at H&M on November 6. Remember Alexander Wang for Uniqlo?
During the summer of 2008, I saved up enough money to complete a handful of internships in New York City. For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to actually, physically touch the clothes I read about and shop the collections I wrote about. So, when news that one of my favorite indie designers, Alexander Wang, was collaborating with one of my favorite Japanese retailers, Uniqlo, it was obvious that I would be there.
Priced between $50 and $60, the five dresses weren't exactly cheap on my intern-stipend budget, but I had the extra cash to afford one dress. What struck me, however, wasn't the price, but how next-level the pieces felt for mass-market clothing. Standing in the dressing room under harsh fluorescent lights with other patrons' discards littered on the floor around me, I felt powerful and pretty in a way that I never had before.
The fabrics used were silky, sweat-proof materials, and the cuts were modest enough for an office but everyday ready, too. The colors, a beautiful mix of blacks, whites, and grays, felt like the pinnacle of sophistication for me at the time. But, it was the little design details that really made me feel like Alexander Wang was on my side. Thin, summer dresses featured an ingenious back flap that let the breeze in but wouldn't show off your skin. And, though we wouldn't call a babydoll frock on-trend these days, the flattering racerback-style top hid bra straps (but also let you go bra-less, if you chose) and made the free-flowing bottom the perfect food-baby silhouette. Best yet? Nearly all the dresses had pockets, which made Wang an instant god in my book.
Click through to see Connie in her Alexander Wang for Uniqlo dress.
Photographed by Casey Lewis.
Even then, with barely a week's worth of fashion-industry experience under my belt, and as a mall-fed shopaholic who had only seen mainline Alexander Wang merchandise printed on paper (and never in person), I still knew there was something special about him. His clothes fit, they flattered, and never required fidgeting or fussing. It's his total understanding of what a specific sort of woman wants in her clothes that makes him mass and commercial in the most exciting of ways — but it's his innovative design sensibility that makes his clothing anything but generic. Sure, wrap dresses and wide-legged jeans look good on most women, but thanks to Wang, we've now got a dozen more silhouettes to add to that list.
That black, back-flap dress with the ruffled kangeroo pouch was my first of many Wang purchases, and as my paychecks grew, I was able to move up to his sample sale merch, then to his Gap collaboration, than to T, and then finally to his eponymous collection. My NYC fashion story can literally be measured in how much Alexander Wang I have in my closet.
It's incredible that a five-piece line had such a profound impact on me, and I'm a actually a little nervous to see how game changing his H&M collection will be. Comments across the web have speculated on what we can expect, and while — yes — you'll probably find a couple versions of white T-shirts (with price points that'll be closer to $20, and not $100 like you jokesters suggested), but also lots of other not-basic basics that you can wear for at least five years without feeling like it's off-trend or about to fall apart. Yep, after seven consistent summers, I still consider my Alexander Wang for Uniqlo dress an integral part of my warm-weather wardrobe (I haven't even had to take it to get fixed up!). Heck — I might even wear it with tights and a jacket to wait in line for his H&M drop date (it'll be in November, after all). From one Wang to another, it'll be a nice full-circle gesture to make.
See you in line, ladies.