He is the fashion designer de jour; the first American in a decade to take the reigns at a major European fashion house and the man who made sweatpants cool
ALEXANDER Wang sure knows how to throw a party. His after-show events during New York Fashion Week have become legendary. Courtney Love and MIA have performed at them and rapper Busta Rhymes once did an impromptu performance of “Pass the Courvoisier” to applaud a successful show.
Musicians, actresses and models: these are the people Wang attracts. In the sea of new designers that have surfaced in recent years, none have connected with the fashion zeitgeist quite like him.
In person, he’s a quiet but powerful presence. Shy but charming. He can work a room like a pro. He’s fashion’s favourite “it” boy who is on the cusp of becoming one of the world’s most important designers.
“The thread connecting my work is always, ‘do I know someone who would wear this?’” he says. His clothes epitomise insouciant cool, focused on easy, comfortable styles that will carry from season to season.
Like any trendsetter, he anticipated the move towards a democratisation of fashion long before it happened. He also deftly adapted to a post-recession world, making off-duty items like t-shirts and sweatpants look desirable.
The San Francisco native moved to New York in 2006 to study at the prestigious Parsons School of Design, America’s answer to Central Saint Martins and the alma mater of visionaries such as Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs. He launched his eponymous line in his second year of university with a capsule collection of five sweaters, which were quickly snapped up by independent stores. By his second season, everybody wanted in. Barneys came knocking and Wang, then aged 20, dropped out of school (not before rejecting an offer from Diane von Furstenberg to design knitwear for her) in order to focus on growing his label.
The risk paid off. In 2007 he launched his first full collection and people quickly fell in love with his effortless, downtown-inspired designs. His ever-expanding business now includes women’s ready-to-wear, resort and pre-fall collections as well as menswear, accessories and a hugely successful contemporary line, T by Alexander Wang. It is estimated he’s raked in $60m in sales.
This is why he was recently appointed creative director at French fashion house Balenciaga, a move that marked the first time an American designer has taken the reigns at a big European house since the 1990s.
His ascendancy hasn’t been without criticism. He has been sneered at for being too commercial. In forging ahead with his model, though, he has marked a new direction for young designers; one focused on commercial success as much as creative acumen. Expect this young designer to be around for a long time to come.
Alexander Wang has designed a capsule collection for Mr Porter, which is available now exclusively at mrporter.com