The brief journey toward the brilliant success of 24-year-old fashion designer Alexander Wang began with the prodigy’s one simple belief: “I’m in New York City - I can do anything I put my heart to."
“When I moved here from San Francisco” Wang relates, “Parsons was a stepping stone, but I really believe that it's up to the individual. Before I even started school, I decided I was going to get an internship with Marc Jacobs. So I went and I got it! Then I thought, let me see what else this industry has to offer.”
A string of impressive turns, from Vogue to Derek Lam, led Wang back to his original passion. “I always knew I wanted my own collection, even if that meant creating clothes on my time off from school. So I did that, and I brought them to an editor at Teen Vogue and she was like, 'This is great!'”
Such clarity of vision certainly facilitated the budding designer’s next step: “When I approached my family about leaving school, I thought they were going to say, 'No way!', but my mom was intrigued and said 'Let's try it'. And I said, 'Oh my gosh, ok!'”. What emerged was the beginning of a family enterprise.
The ingénue, who had nonetheless been cutting frocks since the tender age of fifteen, cedes, “I came from no business experience at all!” After partnering up with his fiscal-savvy sister-in-law, they they managed to secure eighty buyers at a trade show on the very first day. Out of necessity, the Alexander Wang label, complete with an NYC office and a full staff to bill all the orders, was born.
“There are pros and cons to starting so young,” Wang warns, “in the beginning, people said, 'I've never heard of this person, he's what, 21?'. There are stereotypes, but the greatest satisfaction has been proving them wrong.”
He explains his wide appeal this way: “I went with my instinct and created clothes people can wear - brought back something missing in the industry; cashmere basics, that perfect motorcycle jacket, or that little black dress. I was able to connect with my customer and it's been going really well.”
Wang must be referring to all those stores carrying his line, spanning the nation and dotting Japan, China, Korea, Switzerland, Australia and even the Middle East. Or perhaps he’s alluding to the unanimous rave reviews for his Fall 2008 evening collection and the prestigious Ecco Domani award that followed, heaping exposure on top of funding. Not that he needs the press, or the money for that matter.
A cult following among celebrities such as Rachel Bilson, Mischa Barton, Lindsay Lohan, and a slew of runway icons including the line’s new stylist Erin Wasson, has made Wang a permanent fixture on the NYC paparazzi circuit. And regarding investors? “My mom and I, my sister-in-law and my brother, we're the four partners” Wang clarifies, “no external investors. We’ve had people approach us but we don't need the money. If we can keep one hundred percent of our ideas about how to grow the business, then why not?”
The most notable of these - his lauded Fall 2008 foray into eveningwear - has paid off handsomely. “It's always about challenging myself,” Wang explains, “If I were to do an evening line, how would I approach it? This season was about taking baggy trousers, menswear vests and oversized blazers, and using stains, rips and tears on refined and expensive materials.” Well-schooled in the city’s serendipitous pairings of high with low, Wang’s influences for the line are apparent.
“That whole phenomenon of mixing and matching vintage and couture started backstage at Fashion Week,” he informs. “Models from wherever who’ve never read a fashion magazine meet Karl Lagerfeld who gives them a Chanel jacket, which they wear with a t-shirt and jeans. And Erin Wasson!” he gushes, “I mean, she came on the scene with a shaved head! But, it’s a small industry,” Wang continues, “So most of my inspiration is from the street. It's all those quirky people you just bump into that inspire me the most.”
Of course the apprentice learned much from the masters he courted in the beginning. “Marc Jacobs said something really inspirational to me once; 'Give them something that's going to take time to sink in. By the time they get it, change it again - you've got to keep them guessing!'”
What Wang will do next is of course anyone’s guess, but one thing is for certain; this rising star’s remarkable success has bought him perhaps the most precious reward of all – the luxury of time.
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