Designer Alexander Wang.
Alexander Wang's business has been, by all measures, a runaway success, but today several reports hint at trouble in paradise: Both The New York Post and The Daily News are reporting that the designer is the subject of a whopping $50 million lawsuit (ed note: updated lawsuit figures below) accusing Wang of running the equivalent of a sweatshop in downtown New York.
The central figure in the suit seems to be Wenyu Lu, who claims he worked 25 hours without a break in what the Post describes as "a suffocating, windowless, 200-square-foot room," before ultimately passing out. According to the Post's account, Lu's lawyer claims the worker was fired from his job after complaining about the grueling work conditions and also applying for worker’s compensation.
There are differences between the two papers' accounts of the suit: the Post claims that 30 workers are named in the lawsuit against Wang, while The Daily News quotes Lu's laywer as saying he hopes additional Wang employees will sign up and join the lawsuit.
Representatives for Alexander Wang told the Post they wouldn't comment on the suit because they hadn't yet been served, which certainly raises questions about the suit itself (not to mention the discrepancies between the two reports on the number of workers named in the suit).
Also of note: The Post also reports that Wang is looking to open as many as 15 stores in the coming year, following the success of his first stand-alone shop on Grand Street in Soho. Whether the lawsuit moves forward or no, it's safe to say that conflicts like these often accompany growing pains of a quickly expanding business.
UPDATE: WWD has learned that the plaintiffs in the suit are demanding $50 million per charge, adding up to a whopping $450 million in all since the lawsuit includes nine charges. A representative for Alexander Wang told WWD that the company plans to fight the allegations:
“The company takes its obligations to comply with the law very seriously, including the relevant wage and hour regulations, the payment of overtime to eligible employees and having a safe working environment for all of our employees. We will vehemently defend any allegations to the contrary.”
Lu's lawyer, Ming Hai, tells WWD that the case is one example of the "horrible" labor conditions throughout what he describes as "the Asian garment community." Hai also confirmed to WWD that about 30 workers had been added to Lu's case.