February 28, 2013

Ah, yes, the obligatory Alexander Wang for Balenciaga comment. Young Alex’s debut at the old house of Cristóbal was no question this season’s most anticipated show. But, unlike last season’s highlights (Raf Simons ready-to-wear entree at Dior and Hedi Slimane’s at Saint Laurent), this wasn’t something we were necessarily looking forward to. Wang supporters were doubtlessly bating their breath, wishing for the best, while quietly sitting on sweaty palms, like parents about to watch their youngest lead in a middle school musical. Wang naysayers were revving to rile.

And, me, I was very politic about the whole thing. I am not Alexander Wang’s biggest fan, although I respect those who are. Wang, to me, represents the “business first” interests of the contemporary fashion world. He is not an artist, or even a great craftsman. What he does is make relevant, salable clothes that are, literally, ready-to-wear. His family has ties in Chinese manufacturing. He has global sales appeal. From T by Alexander Wang through his New York namesake label and, now, with Balenciaga, he will be designing for every level of the higher fashion market.

I want to take the time to make the argument that Alexander Wang is the ultimate embodiment of today’s dominant fashion industry. But you’ll have to wait on that one, and trust or conjecture, because what I want more is to get this live. The clothes deserve a comment. Like anyone designing for a heritage house, Wang is tasked to respect both the namesake’s traditions, and the adaptations that followed. That is, he will be working with Cristóbal Balenciaga’s legacy, as with Nicolas Ghesquière’s (Wang’s predecessor, who was beloved at the brand for fifteen years). This collection does that, cautiously, with subtle Wang-isms to ensure the new dog’s place; the natural territorial pissing over another one’s mark.

The Wang touch was evident in the collection’s urbanism, the cracked-like-lava rock (or concrete) motif, his signature toughness mused from models-off-duty. Cristóbal came through the curvilinear: cocoon coats, rounded sleeves, and curved hems. The shoes, unlike Ghesquière’s sure-fires, looked awkward. But the bags will sell, François-Henri Pinault will be pleased. The aged lava and marble motif was apt for the “youthquake” relaunch of this historic house: foundations, new openings, standing on the shoulders of giants, etc. My one-line review would be, “the show wasn’t half bad”; again, literally, as half of it impressed, while the other half was fine. The impressive: the semi-circle hem of tube top jumper, the textural turtleneck coordinates, the cropped marble print furs, and Wang’s modest catwalk out. The bated breath was in Alexander Wang’s favor this season, as even the bitchy of us settled for, “That’ll do, pig.

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