Interview with Alexander Wang
This year Alexander Wang celebrates the tenth anniversary of his label, and also his affinity with the millennial generation. Photo Steven Klein
On 12 September in New York, Alexander Wang celebrated the tenth anniversary of his label with a manifesto runway show, which was followed by a memorable party.
On the runway, in front of a giant screen, the models stepped out dynamically to the sounds, among others, of rapper Fetty Wap… Parkas, silk tracksuit tops, hoodies, garments in denim and leather – the essentials for a perfect street-wear wardrobe, as relooked by Wang, and mixed with long dresses and the innovative netting textures that he has inspired over the years.
The final model walked past, and the giant screen burst into life with an accelerated flashback of highlights from Wang’s first decade. As well as clips from runway shows, we saw Gisele Bündchen filmed backstage, and the South African group Die Antwoord, muse of his second T line a few seasons back… This short, totally convincing video highlighted the way Wang has accompanied the emerging culture of today’s 20- and 30-somethings, to the point of becoming both an emblem and an integral part of all that. It’s a culture that has its basis in music, and in this respect Wang’s sincerity can be in no doubt – he’s known for going to all the concerts and festivals, and even entrusted his Instagram account to Canadian star The Weeknd during the 2014 Coachella festival.
On Pier 94 alongside the West Side Highway, the after-party proved our point. On stage, a jovial Alexander Wang MC’d, introducing his guest stars: R’n’B’ singer Tinashe, who danced like the devil with her troop of girls, rappers Lil Wayne and Ludacris, and DJ Baauer, who invited rapper A$AP Ferg to share the stage with him… During all the craziness, Numéro managed to corner Alexander Wang for five minutes to ask him about his brand’s tenth birthday.
Numéro: Over the past ten years, you’ve created a very recognizable style and set of codes. Do you also feel that you’ve contributed to the culture of a whole generation? How did you go about preparing this runway show that marks your label’s tenth anniversary?
Alexander Wang: Every season we start thinking about what feels innovative. And I thought, “Doesn’t it feel very modern to reflect what’s right in front of you?” So I looked at my friends and said, “I want to make clothes that you guys wear every day. Let’s scrap this idea of a high concept – it’s our ten-year anniversary, let’s be true to what we like, what excites us.” We started thinking about this post-millennium attitude. Subversive luxury – the idea that maybe a pair of sneakers can be the most luxurious thing you own. We worked on every item rather than every look. What’s most important is what these items represent, what makes them iconic, what gives them their inherent value, what makes a parka jacket a parka jacket. And then we just added certain details where we felt we had to adjust, to create this idea of an individual within this tribe, you know what I mean? You’re not there to impress everyone, but you want your peers to sometimes say, “Oh, I know where that hoodie’s from, I know where these sneakers are from.”
Has the invention of new, avant-garde forms become obsolete?
Yeah, doing things that are innovative for innovation’s sake feels old. I started to wonder, “Am I doing this for the fashion community or am I doing it for who I’m speaking to?” It raises the question of who your customer is, who your audience is. Maybe innovation doesn’t match what your customer wants. What’s the point of being innovative if what they want is still a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt? So it was really about wondering, “Who is this community of millennials? What is this tribe?” No high concept, no intricacies, just that.
Now that you’ve left Balenciaga, you can concentrate on your own brand. What are your plans?
I’ve got lots of projects. What’s important to me is that I’m still as curious and enthusiastic as I was on day one. I’m so ready! I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far and the relationships we’ve built up. To experience another culture and another way of working, at Balenciaga, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But now it’s time to go back to my brand.
By Delphine Roche