Everyone in the fashion industry has been holding their breath since it was first announced that Alexander Wang would be taking the reins at Balenciaga upon the departure of Nicolas Ghesquière. Even François-Henri Pinault, the chief executive of Balenciaga’s parent company PPR, acknowledged that it was a risk to hire the 29-year-old American designer. Wang has achieved commercial success with his contemporary namesake label, but how, many wondered, would his signature style meld with Balenciaga’s? What would Wang’s designs for the fashion house look like?
Well, now we finally know! Alexander Wang showed his debut collection yesterday morning at Balenciaga’s salon on Avenue George V in Paris, the same place where Cristóbal Balenciaga used to hold his couture presentations. Few members of the media were invited, which allowed for more focus on the clothes and none of the front row frenzy that takes place at most celebrity-laden fashion shows these days. There was a mood of “quiet expectation” as attendees waited for the show to start.
Considering the fact that he was only appointed to his role in December, Wang had very little time to put together a collection, but he pulled through under pressure. He said the first thing he did was “spend time in the archives” to identify “the codes and the DNA of the house,” which he then tried to translate into “modern staples.”
The designer presented a total of 34 looks, many of which obviously hinted at Balenciaga’s own design aesthetic. There were geometric shapes, petal-shaped hems, and backless styles. Wang infused his own technique and modern technology by developing these styles in innovative textiles. Wool was covered with cracked paint, while embroidered leather and shaved fox also made a statement. Marble was another major reference point for the collection – even the runway was decorated with a crackled pattern. It showed up on linings, blouses, jackets, shoes, and fur.
Editors and retailers had a positive reaction to the show, which is being lauded as a very promising start for Wang. Anna Wintour is proud of the designer’s debut and said the “restrained show” contained many wearable pieces and was a “very smart way to start.” Linda Fargo, the fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, thinks Wang “took the codes of the house and interpreted them beautifully” into a collection that was both “reasonable” and “appealing.”
Almost everyone echoed the sentiment that the show was a mix of elegance and edge. Wang manage to pay homage to the house of Balenciaga while still remaining modern and keeping the designs distinct from his own line. There’s plenty of room for the designer to add on to the clothes next season by adding more of his personality or a wider range color and decoration, but this was a perfect start. According to Cathy Horyn, “he will renew a great name – and win over doubters” as long as he keeps striking “that modern balance between couture and the street.” With such positive reviews, even from someone often criticized for her scathing reviews, we’re sure Wang is breathing a sigh of relief!