Mention Alexander Wang and almost instantaneously, images of offbeat, laidback styles, drenched in white, pastel shades and black would come to mind. The young designer had, in a time period of only three years, made a name for himself in the industry with his clean-cut minimalism and perfectly classic tailoring. Each and every one of his garments speak for themselves as they are sent down the runway at Fashion Week in New York, clad by kooky ‘of-the-moment’ models, to the discerningly favourable eyes of the big names, the style gurus and ‘It’ girls – the who’s who of fashion. His journey to success may have been brief, but the wunderkind continues to churn out hugely popular designs, and it most certainly does not seem like he is stopping anytime soon.
Alexander Wang Image source: LA Times
ii. His beginnings
Born and raised in San Francisco, Alexander Wang was born of Chinese-American descent. He started designing as early as nine, and began sewing and exploring various do-it-yourself options at fifteen. His first completed garment constructed in fifth grade, when he was merely ten, was a pair of “gingerbread-man pants”, with “no center inseam”. He moved to New York City at the young age of eighteen to attend Parsons, The New School for Design. Deeply motivated by his decision to move and the geography of his then current location, he envisaged Parsons as a stepping-stone to greater
heights. “I’m in New York City – I can do anything I put my heart to”
Whilst at Parsons, Wang partook in a variety of internships to enrich his own knowledge of exactly how the industry works and what it has to offer. From stints at Teen Vogue, Derek Lam and Marc Jacobs, he believed it was always entirely up to the individual to make sure he gets what he wants. Even before starting the school term at Parsons, Wang already decided he wanted an internship with Marc Jacobs, so he went, and got it. After all the hands-on experience he acquired, as well as the education he was receiving in school, he was ready to revisit his original passion – to create and to design. He then approached his family on a huge decision – to quit school – and feared the worst. Fortunately, Wang’s family was largely supportive and the forming of a family enterprise began.
iv. Early years in formation of label
With the help of his fiscal-savvy sister-in-law, Wang set up his label, Alexander Wang, and managed to secure whopping eighty buyers at a trade show on the very first day. By his sophomore year at Parsons in 2005, he was already designing his first collection, which were predominantly knits. It included pieces for both men and women, and was inspired by classic, clean sportswear with an air of relaxed, effortless attitude. “It’s a small industry, so most of my inspiration is from the street. It’s all those quirky people you just bump into that inspire me the most” v. Development of his label
When it comes to the designing process, Wang went with his instinct to create clothes people can wear, and will fancy wearing on a daily basis. He brought back essentials missing in the industry at that period of time, such as cashmere basics, the perfect motorcycle jacket, and very clever reinventions of the classic little black dress. He launched his debut full collection in 2007, achieving such vast popularity that it propelled his label to an international level, selling to over 200 boutiques and retail stores in the States and across several continents. Even stores in the Middle East have been roped in to carry his line.
Moreover, his languid styles have amassed a faithful following that call themselves simply, Wangsters. A full accessories collection followed the subsequent year as well as the birth of his diffusion line, T by Alexander Wang. The understated “cool” of the line of jersey T-shirts, tanks and dresses, weightlessly evokes the same sensible tone of his earliest collections, and have become a huge hit among celebrities and professionals working in the fashion industry despite its budget-friendly prices, which definitely favours the general community of fashion-savvy people.
T by Alexander Wang Image source: http://fofd.wordpress.com/2009/02/15/to-t-or-not-to-t/
vi. Growth of his label
The family enterprise continues to grow due to one very special fact – there are no external investors. With no one trying to “break” into the company from the outside and thus giving rise to any peripheral influences, Wang can fully concentrate and develop his label the way he wants to, with the assistance of his entire family. “If we can keep one hundred percent of our ideas about how to grow the business, then why not?” Within two seasons, Wang had already created a distinct style that sets him apart from other designers.
The “Model Off-Duty”, also known as the M.O.D. look is a divergent style from the common panache seen on many aspiring designers in the industry, such as elegant eveningwear and extravagant use of luxurious fabrics. No one was inclined to create an effortlessly sexy look until Wang came along. One such model particularly renowned for her nonchalant and edgy style is Erin Wasson, who served as muse for Wang’s first collection on the runway.
vii. His successes
Despite the seemingly smooth journey to fame, Wang met with many stereotypes because of his young age and the fact that he had started so young. The issue he faced regarding his age was an obstacle he had to overcome. No one believed that he was able to achieve such a level of recognition given his age. The fact that he is still young compared to other more established designers in the industry, also plants doubt in people that he actually has the ability to maintain and develop his business, and is really not a “one trick pony”.
Wang’s ability to connect with his everyday customer comes through in his aptitude to create practical yet innovative garments. His styles are fashion forward yet still retaining a certain degree of archetypal standard, a standard where people would deem the garment a classic. His reinventions of cashmere basics and the simple white T-shirt are proof of his talents in the way he addresses consumer needs when it comes to casual wear. His styles are statements in themselves, as more and more people turn to Wang for basics and perfectly tailored drapes.
Wang did not only find success in his faithful following known as the Wangsters, he also lucratively formed a cult following among celebrities such as Rachel Bilson, Mischa Barton and Lindsay Lohan. Of-the-moment models such as Agyness Deyn, Lily Donaldson and Alice Dellal are also famed for donning Wang’s designs when off-duty as well as walking in his shows.
viiii. Awards and accolades
Given his success so far, Wang is no doubt one of the hottest properties and designers to look out for in the industry today. Not only is he recognized by the general public, he is also acknowledged in the inner circle, which makes the greatest impact on a designer when accepted. He was nominated for the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in Women’s Wear award in 2008. Besides the nomination, he also received top honours and won USD200, 000 from the CDFA/Vogue Magazine Fashion Fund Award, along with exposure and funding with the reception of the Ecco Domani Emerging Designer award in the same year. In 2009, Wang was the winner of the CDFA Swarovski Women’s Wear Designer of the Year award as well as the Swiss Textiles Award. The Swiss Textiles Award had a prize of 100,000 Euros, with 10,000 Euros allocated to buy Swiss fabric, with the remainder used to produce and market Wang’s upcoming designs.
ix. Inspiration and muse
Besides street culture that Wang admits being inspired by, he also had his in-house muse and runway stylist, as aforementioned, model Erin Wasson. She was a living, walking form of stimulation for two seasons as they worked together on his Fashion Week shows. She injected an immensely appropriate dose of Model Street chic to his looks by styling his runway shows, as she worked on her own line of jewelry, named Low Luv.
Alexander Wang, model, Erin Wasson at photo shoot Image source: http://models.com/oftheminute/?p=1917
x. His growing influence
Collaborations were in line next as his capsule collection for Uniqlo debuted in May 2008 and were a huge success for the designer, as his languorous styles were made wallet-friendly for the general public. He also collaborated with Shiseido on a line of makeup, Maquillage, which is only available in Asia. Wang also established an alternate product line of shoes, as seen in his collaboration with American canvas shoe company Keds in fall 2008, simply named Alexander Wang for Keds.
Barely five years into creating his own collections and setting up his labels, Wang is already waxing retrospective as he envisioned his Spring 2010 line for men, to hark back to his beginnings as a young, prodigal designer in all the classic simplicity of his designs. Alexander Wang has definitely come a long way and even though his career as a designer is still well in its infancy, he has achieved more success than most aspiring designers his age or even older will in a lifetime. He has rapidly become someone to watch in a remarkably short period of time, as he continues to amaze us with his talents.