Kid No More

It’s hard to be­lieve, but Alexan­der Wang has been in busi­ness for more than a decade. meets the de­signer and re­cently minted chair­man and CEO of the com­pany that bears his name

Prestige (Singapore) - - FASHION - Vin­cenzo la torre

if you were to pick a de­signer to act as poster child for the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion, it would have to be Alexan­der Wang. Col­lege dropout, self-made mogul, party an­i­mal... Wang’s back­story reads like a text­book on the un­usual ca­reer paths of fel­low mil­len­ni­als such as Mark Zucker­berg, pioneers who have turned en­tire in­dus­tries up­side down and dis­rupted the sta­tus quo.

Kids, how­ever, even­tu­ally grow up and while com­pa­nies like Face­book have be­come jug­ger­nauts soon after turn­ing 10, the scrappy and fun at­ti­tude that usu­ally peters out after a decade in busi­ness is still at the core of Alexan­der Wang, both the man and the la­bel.

The im­age of Wang as a baby­faced Asian-amer­i­can prodigy who made it big and be­came a house­hold name while still a 20-some­thing club kid is still in­grained in the con­scious­ness of many of his fans and de­trac­tors alike, but un­der­neath this fa­cade lies a driven man, whose abil­ity to mix high and low, pop and cou­ture, has ex­erted as much in­flu­ence on the in­dus­try as the work of de­sign­ers of­ten praised for their flights of fancy.

Just look at what’s hap­pen­ing right now: Streetwear, sports­wear, hiphop, rave cul­ture. Alexan­der Wang has been min­ing those ref­er­ences since his early days, cre­at­ing a look that’s quickly iden­ti­fi­able as uniquely his, an ef­fort­lessly put-to­gether aes­thetic that has be­come known as “model off-duty”. We have to thank Wang for the count­less pic­tures of man­nequins on the street dur­ing fash­ion week clad in slouchy tank tops, dis­tressed leather jack­ets, skinny ripped jeans and biker boots.

In 2005, the California-born Wang in­ter­rupted his stud­ies at Par­sons in New York to launch a small col­lec­tion of six uni­sex sweaters that he ped­dled him­self to bou­tiques all over Man­hat­tan. In­stead of go­ing the usual route of a fash­ion de­gree fol­lowed by a job at an es­tab­lished la­bel, he fig­ured that he was ready to do things his own way. “[ The es­tab­lished route] wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily a path I wanted to go down, be­cause I wanted to take a path that there might be more of a ques­tion mark at the end — like, where could this take me, what could this mean?” he says when we met him early last spring in New York’s Tribeca neigh­bour­hood, where his stu­dio is lo­cated. “Be­cause if I stay in school and fin­ish, I know that at that point, I’m go­ing to have to go find a job and work for a de­signer brand. At the time, I was in­tern­ing a lot while I was in school and work­ing re­tail. I very much felt stim­u­lated by those ex­pe­ri­ences, so I thought: ‘Well, what if I just cre­ated a small col­lec­tion and sold it on con­sign­ment to a few stores and I could just kind of get a sense, learn the busi­ness?’”

Al­though most 22-year-old as­pir­ing de­sign­ers may think busi­ness is sec­ondary to their craft, the idea of build­ing a com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful la­bel was very much on Wang’s mind from day one. While in­tern­ing at Teen Vogue, he re­calls how many high-end brands would refuse to lend clothes to the mag­a­zine, feel­ing that its read­ers were not their tar­get cus­tomers. “I al­ways grew up as­pir­ing and look­ing at the big lux­ury brands and lov­ing them, but ob­vi­ously not be­ing able to af­ford them — and this was be­fore the time of H&M and Top­shop. If you couldn’t af­ford them, then you were left with not a lot of op­tions, so I wanted to do some­thing that me and my friends could af­ford, that we were still ex­cited by,” says Wang, who also wants to set the record straight about the help he sup­pos­edly re­ceived from his fam­ily. “There’s this story where ev­ery­one thinks that my mum works in pro­duc­tion in China be­cause she lives in China and she hooked me up with all th­ese fac­to­ries, but to be hon­est, my fam­ily comes nowhere near any­one in fash­ion. I mean, no one in fash­ion — no aunts, cousins, noth­ing. So a lot of it was just fig­ur­ing it out. And I started with knitwear be­cause it’s a yarn that you di­rectly work with — a ver­ti­cal op­er­a­tion es­sen­tially, it’s not like you do tai­lor­ing or you have to go and buy the fab­ric from here, or pat­tern from here. Knitwear was some­thing I could han­dle and I started with just six sweaters and this idea that I would do uni­sex. It was the same core wardrobe knitwear pieces that you would need, like an over­sized cardi­gan, a hoodie, a crew­neck...”

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