welcome to alexander wang's world
Alexander Wang spring/summer 14. Catwalk photography Mitchell Sams.
If someone would have asked me a year ago whether I would be able to design for a major house and my own label, I would have said no. But it's amazing how much changes over a year.
No one understands the power of creative collaboration quite like Alexander Wang. The Californian born, New York based designer has built his empire on the belief that teamwork makes the dream work, especially if that team consists of your nearest and dearest, together with some of fashion and music's brightest stars. Since launching his namesake label in 2007, the 29-year-old designer's reputation has skyrocketed. Today supermodels, actors, musicians and stylish young boys and girls flock like moths to his flame. While his close-knit family are involved in the business development and smooth running of his ever-growing brand.
Like the Pied Piper, there's something hypnotic about Alexander Wang. Spend five minutes in his company - all youthful looks and casual confidence punctuated with hearty infectious laughs - and there's a thrill and excitement about him that makes you feel like he, and you, are at exactly the right place at exactly the right time.
We meet at Claridges one sunny afternoon. Alex is sat in a discrete corner dressed head-to-toe in black. Black trousers, black sneakers, black long sleeved T-shirt, his wavy black hair cut into a choppy shoulder-length bob. "My uniform is pretty much this…" he says looking down at himself. "I mostly wear black Main Line or T... But the other day, the sun was shining so I wore blue jeans. It caused so much excitement in the office! People were literally coming up from the floor below and peering behind my desk saying, 'we hear you're wearing blue jeans and we have to have a look!"
Adored for his take on effortless style, Alex's world - like his uniform - is quietly self-assured, stripped back yet sexy, in a downtown colour palette of black, grey and white. For autumn/winter 13, Alex extended this to include a textured assortment of greys - from luxurious smoky cashmere to silver silk and fluffy marl mohair. Key pieces included oversized coats and brushed mohair pencil skirts, worn with fur mittens, snoods and ribbed knit caps, with a sporty twist. Although Alex insists he isn't sporty. "Nooooooo! Not at all!" He laughs. "I never go the gym and I don't exercise. I like what sportswear embodies, sportswear as an idea but that's about it."
Alex's success is down to his ability to perfectly capture the zeitgeist, whether that's through his louche yet luxe aesthetic, or the personalities he chooses to associate with his brand. From the insanely clever casting of American comedian Bon Qui Qui in his spring/summer 13 T womenswear campaign video, to A$AP Rocky, Diplo and Penn Badgley representing the men's line for autumn/winter 12. "I'm always watching Bon Qui Qui and referencing her, so one day I decided to call her up," Alex reveals. "Of course, she had absolutely no idea who I was, but she was totally in to it." The result is surely one of the best fashion videos of all time. As for A$AP, "I met him two years ago. Music is hugely important to me; it's a big part of my world. Humour is so important to me too," Alex continues. "It's a big part of my personality, so it was the perfect fit." Alex's autumn/winter 13 T campaign video sees a group of frenzied fans raid an Alexander Wang showroom; cat fights and hysteria result and the sheer impact of Alex's popularity comes across.
With so many new designers and so much information constantly being fed out there, it's so important to have integrity as a company. You must really believe in every product.
Of course, it's not only celebrity relationships that Alex nurtures. The relationships with his family are integral to his brand identity too. Alex's brother Dennis is his Chief Financial Officer, while his sister-in-law Aimie is the CEO. But the real star of the Wang dynasty is Alex's four-year-old niece Aila. "It's so crazy!" Alex laughs when asked about Aila's ever-growing street star status. "A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law said, 'we're going to bring Aila to the show.' I was like 'are you sure…?" and she said, 'yeah'. So I said 'Ok, let's make her a little outfit.' So we knocked her up a little outfit. And that was it!" Each season, Alex makes Aila a bespoke child sized version of one of the key looks from his new collection. At his spring/summer 14 show, Aila's outfit consisted of a 'Parental Advisory' T-shirt, a black leather skirt, a Balenciaga bag and a pair of pool sliders with white socks. While previous Aila outings have included a black pleated leather skirt and black tee, a black snakeskin dress and Nike trainers and a fluffy faux fur monster coat. Naturally, Aila's star has been on the ascendant ever since, and like her uncle she's fast solidifying her reputation. "I logged on to Twitter the other day, and I was like 'oh my god, Aila's tweeting!?!' Then I realised it was a fake Aila. There are actually fake Alia accounts… can you believe it?!" Alex asks incredulous. Alia doesn't only have a fake Twitter account, she has a fake Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest too, where devoted fans document her every look. "Aila's getting all diva-ish about it, " Alex continues. "She's like… [puts on a cute baby voice] 'Do I need to get dressed up today, am I gonna get photographed?' We're like 'uh-oh… what have we done?!!!'" While there are no plans for an Alexander Wang children's line any time soon, his niece is proof that the demand is there should he find the time.
So what does Alex do when he's not working? "To relax? I do what normal people do," he says. "Hang out with friends, go on vacation…" As for whether he still likes to party, "No comment!" he's quick to reply. Since he took over the helms of Balenciaga last year, Alex has been balancing his own name design studio in New York, with the French luxury house of Balenciaga in Paris, where he travels once a month. "If someone would have asked me a year ago whether I would be able to design for a major house and my own label, I would have said no. But it's amazing how much changes over a year." At the time of writing Alex has just shown his spring/summer 14 collection at New York Fashion Week - "New York is such a huge part of my life" - a clean, accomplished collection of boxer shorts, pleated skirts, cropped jackets and perforated leather in fresh pastel colours. It demonstrated a new femininity for Alex, delivered to Major Lazer's Bubble Butt. Alex worked his love for all things 90s into slogan T-shirts bearing his name and the words, 'Parental Advisory: Explicit Content'. His shows are a New York Fashion Week highlight, with celebrities and editors fighting to secure a seat. The show boasted a stellar front row that included Courtney Love, Kanye West, Miguel, Kerry Washington and Solange Knowles, nestled in amongst such super stylists as Panos Yiapanos and Giovanna Battaglia. "I love catwalk shows," Alex says with a smile. "I love putting on the whole show, the music, the girls, the venue… It's one of my favourite parts of the job!" And you can tell. There's energy and a passion to everything Alex does. It encapsulates the entire brand. The energy pulsates, and the clothes almost pop off the catwalk. "It fascinates me 'click to buy' but we're not there yet," Alex says about the future of fashion, adding that a digital show is not something they'd at the moment consider. "With so many new designers and so much information constantly being fed out there you have to have more integrity than ever before as a company," he includes. "You have to really believe in every product and message you put out there."
Text Holly Shackleton
Catwalk photography Mitchell Sams