Bringing downtown NYC cool to Paris

By Harriet Walker

Cool kid Alexander Wang is a good fit for Balenciaga's imaginative aesthetic

After what felt like aeons of idle and increasingly self-important industry speculation over who would take the top jobs at Dior and Yves Saint Laurent last year, thank goodness for Balenciaga's classy alacrity in announcing designer Nicolas Ghesquiere's replacement last week.

The chosen one is New York's foremost cool kid and uptown grunge merchant Alexander Wang, who, since he first appeared on the scene in the late Noughties, has developed his label from down-at-heel to something rather more directional.

His fusion of high and low influences of civvies and something more like couture, of sci-fi and streetwear, isn't dissimilar to the aesthetic Ghesquiere brought to Balenciaga, though Wang's version has been slightly more accessible, slightly less strung out.

In the early days, Wang made the best sloppy jumper and sandblasted, distressed-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives jeans that money could buy and they cost more than you thought they would, too. He teamed them with skinny-sleeved, boxily cut suede and leather jackets for a 90s-influenced but unusually chic take on the rock-chick paradigm. "Model off-duty," Wang called it. And oh, how we tried to emulate it.

But since then, Wang's collections have taken on a more grown-up aspect, blending his classic American sportswear references with strict tailoring, an interest in experimental cuts and a move towards the conceptual: all of which were part of Cristobal Balenciaga's original blueprint for his couture house.

At Wang's spring 2013 show in September, his classically casual pieces came deconstructed and held together with fishing wire so they seemed to float unaided around the body. And bleached-white ensembles were shown in pitch black and made to glow in the dark.

When it comes to invention and imagination, Balenciaga leads the fashionable field, thanks to the work of Nicolas Ghesquiere. The suits there may have let us off tenterhooks by announcing Wang's appointment last week, but breath remains bated as to what exactly his vision for the label will be.

Alexander Wang and the diffusion line T By Alexander Wang are stocked in Auckland at Workshop.

- INDEPENDENT

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