Last night I had the great pleasure of attending an audience with Alexander Wang at Selfridges department store. Now there’s an invitation any self-confessed Wang fan could never refuse! As legendary fashion journo Colin McDowell set about throwing questions at the rising catwalk king, he opened the evening by telling Alexander he’s ‘the hottest star of the moment.’ Here, here!
Born in San Francisco, Alex attended boarding school and travelled Europe before realising he wanted to move to New York. Happily speaking of his family network he insisted ‘I grew up in a very supportive environment’ and as Colin asked if Alex thought he had made any mistakes he simply chuckled ‘Who doesn’t make mistakes?’
At 17, he took a summer course at Central Saint Martins which focus on taking ‘one idea’ and ‘completely exhaust it’ leading to one very frustrated young designer! ‘I thought, I have this amazing book, now what do I do with it?’ Jaws dropped when we discovered he did an internship at Marc Jacobs before he’d even started the fashion design course at Parsons and he continued to rave about interning. ‘I was learning a lot more at internships than at school. For me, it was all about getting my hands dirty and watching people do what they do.’
He left Parsons early to set up his label and at first it was just himself, his brother and his sister-in-law dragging a suitcase around stores in LA. The first range launched in 2007 with knitwear. ‘It’s stretchy and you don’t really need to work that much on tailoring. Second season we took it to a trade show. In the first day the response was phenomenal. My sister-in-law is amazing, she grabbed the spot right at the front so everyone walked right pass us as they came in. We picked up 80 stores in the first day.’ From a trio to a thriving company, Alex is currently hitting the fashion big time. ‘Now there’s about 40 in our company, people for merchandising, shipping, the atelier, the accessories team…’
Menswear followed under the already popular ‘T’ concession. ‘Everything’s kind of worn as a t-shirt. You wear it, you sleep in it, you wear it the next day and you put your pieces over it. It’s always important to me that the clothes we create are attainable and we work on a tighter price range.’ Of the creative process he raves about being inspired by the people around him. ‘I draw. It usually starts with evolving the previous collection. Where she needs to go next. But still not dropping everything that she’s attained. My mission really was that I wanted to see the girls wearing my clothes on the street.’
Next, Colin asked what makes up the Alexander Wang DNA. ‘It’s not about a certain age bracket or ethnic background, it’s more a sensibility that’s allowed us to sell all around the world, the middle east, Europe, Asia. Japan is our biggest international market and London is number two. It’s a sensibility that’s definitely found in New York. New Yorkers are just a little more urgent… Clothes you just throw on, and layer up’.
It’s a well known fact that model Erin Wasson is his go-to girl but Alex insists their relationship is more a friendship than anything else. ‘Erin’s more of a friend than a muse – the term muse is outdated in a way, I never really use that word. The people that inspire me are the people I have a personal relationship with, I really understand the ins and outs of their lives. To say one other person would be so hard for me, it’s really my friends and people I have close relationships with.’
Finally, he raves about London. Double whoop for us! Comparing London and New York he says ‘there’s definitely a lot more shopping in London. Me and my friend were driving around the other day and there’s so many shops and so many different parts of town. I don’t think that the way New Yorkers dress is dramatically different to London. At the moment in New York it’s very much about that urban uniform; the leather jacket, the jeans, the booties, it’s kind of a shared aesthetic. In London it’s a little more adventurous, people go all out. Girls here are very individual, it’s such a London thing, they’re maybe a bit more rebellious than New York girls. There’s a fearlessness, they experiment with hats or jewellery. It’s very inspiring that people can just leave the house like that. If you think of all the greatest stylists, they’re all from London, Katie Grand... Or even the New York based ones like Anna Wintour.’
So, dear Alex, would you ever bring your base for design work into London? ‘I absolutely love it here but for the moment I’m very much based in New York, it inspires me but I’d never say never!’
Here's to hoping!
A big thank you to Lucy at Selfridges.