The moment of truth finally came this morning in Paris: how would Alexander Wang fare with his debut collection for Balenciaga? Quite well, as it turns out.
When the 29-year-old designer was named creative director of the venerated house back in December, replacing Nicolas Ghesquière on his 15th anniversary at the helm, talk flew surrounding his suitability for the role. After all, this was a man who built his mini-empire on slouchy separates, über soft tees, and heavily-studded handbags — not exactly couture-level duds. Today he proved himself, at the very least, ready to fight for his place in Paris.
Wang debuted the 33-look collection in the “intimate atmosphere” and “salon-style format” promised by the house earlier this month, and the reactions from those across the pond have been overwhelmingly positive. Cathy Horyn calls it “impressive” and lauds the designer’s ability to bring “street smarts” to “couture volumes;” and Anna Wintour sang Wang’s praises to the New York Times:
“I’m very proud. It was such a restrained show. I thought everything was very wearable, with obviously lots of bows to Balenciaga himself. I thought it was a very smart way to start, by not giving us too many fireworks.”
Indeed, like Ghesquière’s first collection for the house some 15 years ago, it was subtle, elegant, and largely monochromatic. The curvature of the silhouettes spoke to the time the young designer has spent in the house’s archives over the past few months, while silver hardware, cutout dresses, and painted knits were a reminder of of the downtown edge on which Wang has made his name. As for salability, we have no doubt we’ll be seeing the black buckled boots, sculpted jackets, and cracked sweaters flying off of shelves in the near future, not least because fans will want to get their hands on a little piece of fashion history.
We’re looking forward to seeing Wang ramp up the showmanship in seasons to come, but for his first Parisian outing, this was undoubtedly a quiet but self-assured triumph.
Stay tuned for photos of the full show.