For release Sunday, Dec. 2 () -
For release Sunday, Dec. 2 () —
(On the Runway)
c.2012 New York Times News Service
It looks as if Alexander Wang will be the next designer of Balenciaga. The company hasn't commented on various media reports, but an announcement is expected as early as Monday. There has been plenty of reaction on Twitter, with probably more people favoring a Wang-designed Balenciaga than not, but the skeptics have some choice words, like "I hate this."
Do I think hiring Wang, 29, is a smart move for hallowed Balenciaga? There are some distinct advantages in hiring a brash, media-savvy young designer from New York who knows how to pick new models (see an article on Style.com) and that you need a good after-show party to stoke the adulation. Also, he has a lot of manufacturing experience — a bonus.
But to know if Wang is the right choice for Balenciaga really depends on how company executives see the brand evolving. The fact that they chose Wang, a contemporary-market designer, and not a high-fashion designer, emphatically suggests that they do want something different.
As I tried to say on the blog the other night, what interests me most about a Wang hire is that he is a pretty good street designer. In looking back at his collections over the last five or so years, what stands out are things like oversize knits and sweatshirts, funky dresses and shorts (lots of shorts). There's a somewhat predictable moodiness in his style reflected in the reviews. ("Sexy-tough girls" ''primed to do battle," yowza!) Still, there is a confidence in many of the styles, along with a sureness in how he wants to present them on the runway; and I like to think that he could do this at Balenciaga.
Although Nicolas Ghesquiere, the previous designer of the house, was known for his more experimental collections, especially with clothes that used new materials or construction methods, he was first and foremost a street designer. He has incredible instincts for that kind of style, and high standards about what to choose and what to reject.
So I think there is an opportunity for Wang to expand his horizons in this area. Hiring a contemporary-market designer doesn't necessarily indicate that Balenciaga and its parent, PPR, want to make the label more mainstream. In fact, that would be plain foolish, given its history and the glossy stores the company has recently opened. But I think Balenciaga has drifted in recent years, with too many different styles and prices that don't relate well (or at all) to what Ghesquiere showed on the runway. The company needs to straighten that out. And I'm a big believer that the creative director should be the leader.
I also don't want to rap Wang before he even starts at the big B. Although I haven't been a fan of some of his collections (he seems to try too hard, in my opinion), my immediate hope is that he sees this as an amazing opportunity and has fun. Be serious and respectful but, above all, surprise us.