TITLE: Creative director
COMPANY: Alexander Wang and Balenciaga
NEWS THIS YEAR: Just about a month after Nicolas Ghesquière exited Balenciaga, Alexander Wang, then 28, was named his successor. The media loved painting Wang as an unlikely candidate for the job, zeroing in on him as a T-shirt designer assuming the reins at a storied French couture house, which Ghesquière had revived as a bastion of experimental, highly influential fashion during his 15-year tenure.
In reality, Wang designs much more than T-shirts for his own collection, which he launched in 2005 and which quickly became a driving force in the contemporary market. His dynamic street aesthetic connected with a passionate customer, putting the company in rapid growth mode over the last two years. Its 16th store opened in Tokyo last month.
If there was a blatant commercial mandate behind Wang’s appointment, he handled it deftly in his first collection for fall 2013, which was smart, well-designed and neither too reverential to the house codes nor too symbiotic with his own more casual body of work. From the beginning, he was crystal clear on one point: His role as creative director of Balenciaga is to fuel the commercial ship.
“Right off the bat, it wasn’t like my first meetings were just on designing the collection,” Wang said before his fall show. He recalled a discussion with chief executive officer Isabelle Guichot “to kind of understand what’s very important for business and where we needed to go.”
One of the first destinations is retail: The first Balenciaga store under Wang’s creative vision opened last week, the New York flagship at 148 Mercer Street. The store, designed in stately green marble, limestone chrome and cracked resin, is light years away from the Space-Age obsession of Ghesquière. “One of the main things I wanted to convey was a sense of permanence,” Wang said.
— JESSICA IREDALE
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