A year after he won the 2008 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, Alexander Wang’s early supporter and most distinguished patron, Anna Wintour – The Editor – paid a goodwill visit to his showroom. Visibly unperturbed by concerns for the fragile economy, he presented her with a silver mini-dress, a metallic vestment that looked shockingly sensible on the model. Intrigued but with a touch of concern for its market value, Ms. Wintour asked for the retail price. Unflinchingly, he replied that it was $1,200. Clad in fur and Chanel Haute Couture, without a pause, she quipped “That’s very reasonable”.
Born and raised in a metropolis opaque with fog – San Francisco – Mr. Wang’s ascension into fashion architecture came at an early stage in his life; he recalls sketching sartorial illustrations when only six years old. Eager to learn, Mr. Wang relocated to a city of smog – New York – to attend the eponymous Parsons School of Design. When reality clashed with expectation, he dropped out after his sophomore year in 2005. With designing experiences from apprenticing at Marc Jacobs and Derek Lam, and marketing intelligence from interning at Teen Vogue and Vogue, he went on to launch his own line of unisex cashmere sweaters, targeting street-savvy New Yorkers.
The intarsia-knitted designs proved a popular staple amongst the toned crowd. As his name germinated into recognition, Alexander Wang decided that the time had come to stage his first head-to-toe collection of garments. The runway show was first scheduled in 2007 and has since become one of the most anticipated exhibitions of New York Fashion Week.
Mr. Wang readily admits that he is particularly influenced by the music industry, reflecting it into his line of clothing and accessories wherever possible. In return, rappers and others of the same ilk frequently drop his namesake label into their popular songs. While it’s not unusual for designers to be cited by hip-hop or pop-star musicians, being this young and called out by Jay-Z does warrant singular respect.
Be that as it may, Mr. Wang is candid about his brand, frequently commenting that the products must have a comfortable fit without losing his fashion’s eccentricity and sell at an affordable price without sacrificing his priority on quality. His signature style is arguably making insouciance look chic. The clothes are those one would expect cool models to wear on their days off – slouchy t-shirts and leathery jackets. The highest paid model in the world for one, Gisele Bündchen, is a fan of Mr. Wang’s aesthetics and has walked in his show as a favour.
‘The boy with the model friends’ is what Mr. Wang is known for in New York’s out-and-about society. With the succour of Champagne, macaroons, and beautiful tall people, his part-time job is to orchestrate star-studded events that reward attendees with a party experience unlike the last one they attended. The after-show party, like the runway parade itself, is an event his guests anticipate with pleasure – the invitation is almost as coveted as a seat in the catwalk’s front row.
At the end of November 2012, Alexander Wang was named Creative Director of the much lauded, Paris-based fashion house, Balenciaga. The appointment proved quite controversial, sparking debate and fanning gossip amongst the cantankerous fashion harpies who collectively agreed that Mr. Wang’s street-wear aesthetics were unbefitting a luxury house such as “Bal-en-si-AA-guh”. The snow not yet melted by the sun, Mr. Wang presented his first collection for the brand during the following February. Wrapped in his signature sweater, with his long tousled hair and a gentle humble expression on his face, Mr. Wang beamed and bowed as he exited the runway accompanied by the thunderous applause and admiring looks of the assembled critics. “It was…good” was the recurring reaction – a fine commendation given that the previous captain of Balenciaga was heralded as a genius of “space couture”.
Merely a few months shy of turning thirty, Mr. Wang has already profitably graduated from emerging designer to established household name. This is no small token given that Fashion-USA is notoriously difficult to vegetate and that for a designer to sprout at this unseasonable age is heteroclite to say the very least. At the helm of two salubrious fashion houses – one a burgeoning American staple, the other a lavish European empire – and with the vehement backing of fashion’s largest personalities and influential luminaries, Mr. Wang has achieved street-art of the highest calibre in a relatively short time. With no signs of becoming démodé anytime soon, expect more extolments of Alexander Wang for he is destined for greatness.