Alexander Wang is one of the youngest symbols of the new American style. His unique vision on fashion – easy, sexy, casual but refined, balancing grunge aesthetics and college tradition – has reached success in a handful of seasons and is now a staple in celebrities’ closets
He was born in San Francisco from an American family with Chinese descent. He learnt sewing as a teenager, when his mother gave him a sewing machine as a gift.When he was 15, he spent three months in London to attend a course at the Central Saint Martins College. After high-school, at 18 he moved to New York to study at theParsons Design School; he did internships at Derek Lam, Marc Jacobs and Teen Vogue.By his sophomore year, in 2005, he was already designing his first collection, mainly made of knits. After two years, he presented his first complete collection; in 2008 he added an accessory line.In spring 2009 he launched T by Alexander Wang, a t-shirt line for women; in spring 2010 he has expanded it with men’s tees.
According to Julie Gilhart, vice-president and fashion director at Barneys New York, Wang’s F/W 2008 collection – which included baggy pants, oversized blazers, pleated chiffon dress and ripped tights – is memorable because it was one of the most interesting and energetic shows ever seen at the New York Fashion Week. It was the collection that lead him to success.
As a teenager, he started making dresses for his sister-in-law Aimie, who was a party promoter at the time. At his brother’s wedding party, he set up a fashion show to present the 35 dresses he had made for Aimie and her friends.The locations of his fashion show after-parties in New York are always unusual: in 2008 the party was held in an empty warehouse in Cortlandt Alley and included a concert by Foxy Brown; in 2009 in a Mobil Gas Station and included performances by Courtney Love and Santigold.Many are the celebrities who have been wearing clothing and accessories by Wang, from Christina Aguilera to Kim Kardashian, to model-turned-designer Erin Wasson (who has styled some of his fashion shows). Lindsay Lohan and Rihanna are probably his greatest fans: it is as if they race with each other to be the first to wear his latest creations.At high-school he made a denim miniskirt for his class-mate Victoria Traina. The socialite appeared on W wearing his skirt.The names of his shoes are sometimes inspired by models – Lara, Anja,Freja – while some of the names of his bags come from 90s tv series –Brenda and Donna from Beverly Hills 90210, Dorothy from The Golden Girls and Trudy from Miami Vice.”My mom would put me in these preppy little suits and slick my hair to the side”: probably he had childhood memories in mind when he got dressed to receive the Swarosvki Award for Womenswear in 2009: Wang wore a Helmut Lang blazer (he has owned it since high school) and Comme des Garçons knee-high shorts.
His outstanding quality
The ability to mix casual and street style, sexy and grungy: the result is an inimitable tomboy chic style, which has its stamples in biker leather jackets, black dresses, shorts, classic shirts and long t-shirts.
The piece of advice
“Have a clear idea of what you want to do. You need to be determined and ambitious to achieve the end result. It’s scary but if you know exactly what your point of view is, it makes it much easier.”
In 2008 he won the Ecco Domani Fashion Fund Award, and in the same year the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund: the $200,000 included in the prize gave him the chance to further develop his business.In 2009 he received the Swarovski Award for Womenswear from CFDA and the famous Swiss Textile Award. In March 2010 he has been nominated for the CFDA Awards 2010, in the categories Womenswear Designer of the Year and Swarovski Award for Accessory Design.
In 2008 the Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo invited him to take part into the Designer Invitation Project. He designed a black and white collection, including shirt, short-sleeved and slip dresses, and long-sleeved t-shirts.He included some sunglasses in his S/S 2009 collection, designed in collaboration with Linda Farrow: they have an extragavant peaked cat’s eye shape.In 2009 he designed a mini-collection for the project GAP Design Edition: it included jackets, shorts and a zipped dress, with which he gave a new turn to the classic khaki cotton fabric.For the F/W 2009 collection he worked with the jewelry designer Paris Kain: the results were four styles of bracelets and earrings inspired by Aunty Entity, the character played by Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome. As for the F/W 2010 fashion show, models sported some exclusive gold jewelry, designed by Wang and Gaia Repossi.
The development of every collection starts with visual ideas – coming from everyday life, people, street-art, everything imperfect – arranged on a mood board. “Usually we look at everything we’ve done so far,” he explains. “It’s always about evolving what we’ve done – where does she need to go next?”
Diane Von Furstenberg, who was his mentor for a year after he won theCFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.
His creations are
Classic and refined, sexy and androgynous.
Loose t-shirts, skinny jeans, sneakers. He takes a black backpack wherever he goes.
“I can’t get inspired by a celebrity on a red carpet in a magazine, I have to understand how they live.” New York and its people: “Most of my inspiration is from the street. It’s all those quirky people you just bump into that inspire me the most.”
“Each decade really shapes a designer. Growing up in the 90s you can’t help but be influenced by the greats: Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs. Also someone that fascinated me is Margiela: he never had taken a picture or done an interview, and the right people are so aware of his brand.”
San Francisco, U.S.A.
New York, U.S.A.
Here are some looks from the SS 2013 collection.