Internationally renowned fashion designer Alexander Wang has celebrated a handful of “firsts” in his career lately.
After two years of silence on his Instagram account, the designer announced his collaboration with fashion retailer H&M. Wang is the first American designer and the youngest, at age 30, to collaborate with H&M to create an exclusive collection.
Wang also made his first trip to Savannah to attend Savannah College of Art and Design’s SCAD Style event where he participated in a lecture with fashion industry icon Domenico De Sole, chairman of Tom Ford International, Tuesday evening at Trustees Theater.
The lecture began at 6 p.m., but anxious fans began lining up at 11:30 a.m. By the time the doors opened at 5:30, the line was wrapped around the corner and heading down Congress Street.
Troy Allen, a junior at Savannah Arts, was one of the fashion students standing on the sidewalk in the rain waiting to see Wang.
“I’m obsessed with him,” Allen said. “I think I’m going to cry when I see him. I love his street style sportswear — I mean, everyone wants it.”
Wang was born and raised in San Francisco and moved to New York City after high school to attend Parsons The New School For Design. He left in 2005 after two years of school to launch his own label.
Two years later, his women’s ready-to-wear collection debuted on the runway and the fashion industry embraced his urban, street style-meets-couture designs and consumers around the world began to take notice.
He opened his first store in New York City in 2011 and today has more than 15 stores around the world. His men’s and women’s ready-wear collections, handbags, footwear and lifestyle items are carried by more than 700 retailers worldwide.
In 2012, Wang was named creative director of Balenciaga.
Before his lecture, Wang sat down with the Savannah Morning News to discuss his reluctance to embrace social media, the payoff of taking risks and why he decided not to embrace the elitist attitude of some of his fashion counterparts.
“I should thank my family for that,” he said. “My family has always been supportive in what I pursue.
“I come from a Chinese/American background, but in a certain sense they were very untraditionally Chinese. I started working in seventh or eighth grade.
“I continued that throughout high school and college and when I moved to New York and started my internships and working in the industry.
“I noticed there is this air of pretentiousness and a stereotype of working in a fashion environment.
“I didn’t quite understand it. I guess some people go through a more traditional background and become instilled with being treated a certain way and feel they need to impose that.
“In our company and our environment, it’s very non-political. It’s not about egos, and it’s not about yelling at people.
“It’s a family owned business and it’s an environment where we are connected and it’s not so much about what you do but enjoying it.”
Embracing social media
“When we started social media, it took a little time for me personally to decide what I wanted to do with it and how much I personally wanted to be involved with it because the brand is my name so everything we do links directly back to me,” Wang said.
He began with Facebook and kept to a classic approach.
“As I became more intrigued with it … I’ve had a lot more fun with it.”
While he said it took him two years to figure out what to do with his Instagram account, he said he wanted each social media outlet to be unique rather than repeating himself.
“It’s fun to do something that’s not expected. I’ve always had this outlook about fashion that it’s not to be taken too seriously. It’s not something that is so precious.
“It’s something that I respect and I feel passionate about, but it also has other aspects that I want to explore.
“With the different lines I do, it gives me a chance to explore different things.”
For Wang, he said it’s “all about taking risks.”
“When I left school, it was taking a risk. …
“A big part of our brand is having fun. I think it’s interesting to try new things and play in new fields.
“It’s an industry and it’s a craft and it’s a part of everyone’s life, whether it’s intentional or not.”
Balancing art with business
Wang said he started the company with his sister-in-law, and his mother has played a large role in the company’s success.
“In the beginning, I was involved in picking the stores, shipping, costing, production, everything.
“I always say if you want to be a fashion designer, you have to sell clothes.
“Fashion is something that involves commerce. There has to be a balance of things that people connect to and can access and that are worn.
“As I have grown as a designer and a name behind a company and in having new opportunities that come my way with Balenciaga and H & M, I’ve learned so much about … how things are executed and how they operate.”
Seizing the moment
Now that Wang has settled into his role as designer and business man, he just has to figure out what he wants to do next.
“I’ve always had goals and been very ambitious, but it’s always hard to explain what they are.
With each accomplishment, each collection, I’m never really thinking about next season until it happens or until I have to and then I think, okay, we have to be better. And it just happens.
SCAD Style wraps up today with the SCAD jewelry trunk show from noon-8 p.m. at SCAD Museum of Art and a lecture titled “Why Rice Cookers are Exciting” by Don Norman, design thought leader and cofounder for Nielsen Norman Group at 6 p.m. at SCAD Museum of Art.