May 19, 2022

Balenciaga Taps Alexander Wang

PARIS — Alexander Wang on Monday became the first designer of Asian descent to enter the highest ranks of Parisian high fashion when he was named creative director of the storied house of Balenciaga.

Mr. Wang, born of Taiwanese-American parents, brought up in California and a successful designer of hip, streetwise sportswear for his own label in New York, will follow in the footsteps of the Spanish haute couture master Cristóbal Balenciaga, who died in 1972.

The appointment was announced by PPR, the French luxury conglomerate which bought Balenciaga in 2001. The group includes Gucci, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.

Mr. Wang, 28, who will continue with his own U.S.-based company, said in a statement that he was “deeply honored to embark on this new role for a brand and house that I have such great admiration and respect for.”

Isabelle Guichot, president and chief executive of Balenciaga, lauded Mr. Wang’s “modernity and his individual and cosmopolitan vision of design.”

Mr. Wang will succeed Nicolas Ghesquière, who was at the helm for 15 years and created a futuristic high-fashion elegance. He left last month with a plan to open his own fashion house.

Mr. Wang, who won the prestigious CFDA Swarovski Women’s Wear Designer of the year in 2009, is considered to have a sharp business mind; his company already ships worldwide to more than 50 countries.

Why would PPR choose a young designer of street-smart clothing? The signs are that the increasing reach of Balenciaga demands a younger and easier-to-wear style. But the real secret behind Mr. Wang’s appointment may lie in his ties to China. He speaks Mandarin, and Balenciaga has expanded rapidly in China in recent years.

Mr. Wang will be in a unique position to push forward the Balenciaga image throughout greater China and Southeast Asia, industry experts said.

The Balenciaga brand already has 10 stores in China.

With a demographic that suggests that 40 percent of Asians will be under age 30 by 2020, the French company may feel that it is time to take high fashion down from its lofty pedestal.

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