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Alexander Wang Hit with a $50 Million Lawsuit, Accused of Running a Chinatown Sweatshop

Alexander WangThirty workers have filed a $50 million lawsuit against Alexander Wang, charging the designer with violating labor laws at his Chinatown studio in New York City, located at 386 Broadway between Walker and White.

The New York Post names only one plaintiff, 56-year-old Wenyu Lu.

Lu, 56, claims he was hospitalized for several days after he passed out at his workstation because he was forced to work 25 hours without a break and was warned that he would be fired if he didn’t follow orders.

Among the orders was to “knit and perfect” a pair of leather trousers in four hours — a job that normally takes 12 hours, Lu said.

Lu was ultimately fired on Feb. 16 after complaining about the working conditions and applying for worker’s compensation, said Ming Hai, his lawyer.

The 28-year-old designer emerged on the fashion scene in 2007 and won the prestigious Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund the following year. Since then, he's built a $25 million business selling his luxe grunge aesthetic: he's one of the few young (or old!) designers whose critical acclaim matches his commercial success.

Even though Wang's designs have a lot of cool kid cred and the man knows how to throw a party, it's his business savvy which has truly distinguished him as a designer. In a 2009 New York Times profile, Ruth La Ferla quotes Sally Singer, fashion director of Vogue, on the decision to award Wang the Fashion Fund: “What impressed the judges,” she said, “was that he is on to every aspect of what he does: the clothes, the image, the retail growth. It slightly blows you away that someone so young could have taken in so much so quickly.”

In the same profile, Wang emphasizes that he's "not an artiste" and that he "knew from Day 1 [he] wanted to do a lifestyle brand.”

The charges brought against the designer in the current lawsuit are horrifying, and Wang deserves to suffer the cost to his reputation and finances if they prove to be true. But still, given his steep ascent to fashion fame and his relentless attention to his profit margins, one can imagine how the young designer lost his head to bottom line.

Image via The Selby