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Alexander Wang and Bella Hadid at Wang’s post-fashion show party at a warehouse in New York, Sept. 10, 2017. The glamour of New York nightlife helped Wang build an empire. Now he is accused of sexual misconduct on the club scene. Image Credit: Rebecca Smeyne/The New York Times

There was a time when Alexander Wang threw the wildest and weirdest parties of New York Fashion Week. He built adult playgrounds inspired by carnivals and frat houses, catered by Hooters and McDonald’s, hosted at gas stations and filled with pole dancers, where uninhibited celebrities took home rolling papers as party favours.

Now the designer is at a crossroads. A number of people have accused him of sexual misconduct, often at parties or nightclubs. Most of the claims were made anonymously on social media. Now, high-profile victims’ rights lawyer Lisa Bloom told The New York Times she is representing 10 men with allegations against Wang and his company.

The latest allegation on February 24 comes from 21-year-old Keaton Bullen, a student at New York’s Parsons School of Design, who told BBC News that Wang assaulted him at a club in 2019. Bullen said that he and a friend were invited by Wang to his table and offered a drink. They were later on the dance floor when Bullen said “all of a sudden [Wang] unzipped my trousers, put his hands in my pants” and touched him.

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Trina and Alexander Wang onstage at Wang’s Big Trouble in Little China(town) fashion week party in New York, Feb. 9, 2019. Image Credit: Rebecca Smeyne/The New York Times

After the first claims were made, Wang promised to defend his reputation vigorously, calling the allegations lies — “baseless and grotesquely false” in a statement released on New Year’s Eve.

So far no legal action has been taken by Bloom or Wang.

“I never engaged in the atrocious behaviour described and would never conduct myself in the manner that’s been alleged,” Wang said in the statement.

Wang has since gone quiet, hiring at least two high-profile lawyers of his own, Eric M. George and Andrew B. Brettler, while continuing to oversee his company. On February 12, for the first time in six weeks, the official Alexander Wang Instagram account posted something new to its feed: an animated video celebrating the Lunar New Year.

That post came a few days before the start of New York Fashion Week, which Wang, 37, hasn’t participated in since 2018.

Wang made his runway shows into democratic, public experiences and built a fashion empire around partying. With $350 T-shirts and ripped denim, he outfitted Manhattan’s cool kids; his entourage, the Wang Gang, was staffed with waiflike and dishevelled women, rarely seen without their smudged eyeliner and Alexander Wang leather jackets.

“He was always known as very personable and professional, and also a big partier — but look, that’s normal for fashion,” said fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone. “It is considered pretty normal after fashion week to pound to the ground, with very, very, very late nights.”

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David Casavant at his home in New York, Feb. 10, 2021. In January 2017, Casavant was at the Good Room, a Brooklyn club when, he said, Alexander Wang approached him and pulled down his pants and underwear. A friend standing next to Casavant confirmed the incident to The New York Times. Image Credit: Devin Oktar Yalkan/The New York Times

The accusations against Wang come at a moment when people seem to have more license to speak up about mistreatment and harassment. The style of partying he and others in fashion were known for is no longer universally celebrated, but instead is often interrogated as a playground for predatory behaviour.

The 10 men represented by Bloom include David Casavant, a 30-year-old fashion stylist and fashion archivist who occasionally worked with Wang professionally and also encountered him socially at parties and clubs.

In January 2017, Casavant was at the Good Room, a Brooklyn club when, he said, Wang approached him and pulled down his pants and underwear. A friend standing next to Casavant confirmed the incident to The Times.

“I was so apparently in a vulnerable state,” said Casavant, who was drunk at the time and believed Wang’s intention was to “humiliate” him; he also accused Wang of trying to undress him on earlier occasions at a club. “Even if it’s at a party late at night, I don’t think that’s normal behaviour.”

According to a letter to The Times from George, one of Wang’s lawyers, the designer denied ever pulling down Casavant’s pants and underwear.

That letter attempted to discredit Casavant and said he had an “irrefutable yearslong personal animus toward Mr. Wang.” Two examples of that animus, the letter said, include Casavant once accusing Wang of “ruining Balenciaga,” and Casavant once, at the Good Room, invading Wang’s booth and refusing to leave.

Bloom, Casavant’s lawyer, said in response: “Mr. Casavant stands by his account. Mr. Wang’s ridiculous personal attacks on him say more about Mr. Wang than they do about him.”

In late December, Casavant watched as stories about Wang’s partying circulated on social media. Most were anonymous, amplified by Diet Prada and another Instagram account dedicated to exposing the inner workings of the modelling industry.

But other accusers identified themselves. On TikTok, Owen Mooney, a model, accused Wang of groping him at a club in 2017. Gia Garison, another model, told The Guardian that the designer tried to pull her underwear down at a club in the same year.

In his letter, George said Casavant’s claims were “preposterous” and had been “copied” from Mooney’s statements.

Casavant decided to publicly come forward after Wang issued his New Year’s Eve statement, in which he said, “seeing these lies about me being perpetuated as truths has been infuriating.”

“I didn’t like the idea that people could be branded as liars who weren’t,” Casavant said. “I didn’t feel a necessary response from the fashion industry about it. Which I can understand — I get it, they were mainly anonymous, so that’s fine. But here I am. I’m sitting in front of you. I’m saying who I am. I’m not anonymous anymore.”

Fashion has its share of #MeToo stories, with many revolving around photographers, not necessarily designers. But some people, including Cutrone, believe that the industry, notorious for enabling bad behaviour, continues to lag other industries in addressing its failings around sexual misconduct.

“I am actually surprised at how quiet fashion continues to be in its response to so many allegations,” she said. “It’s a profession where boundaries are very blurred.” She noted that fashion brands still use vulgar sexual terms to describe certain looks, and that “people turn the other way.”