American designer Alexander Wang is showing his line when he wants, not when Planet Fashion schedules a series of catwalk shows. He has launched a new handbag collection with luxury label Bulgari. The style wunderkind-turned-industry power player, who is based in New York, says he feels “very liberated” in a world where reinvention is part of the game. “I’m actually very excited that our industry is changing so quickly,” the 35-year-old Wang told AFP. “It pushes you to try new things and to step outside your comfort zone.”
Wang has been a staple of the fashion landscape for nearly 15 years. He launched his brand at age 21 and unveiled a complete womenswear collection two years later. “I always say that I take my work very seriously but I don’t take myself very seriously,” he said in an interview. “It’s crazy how fast time has passed. I still feel like every day is like when I first started.” But since last year, the California native-who did a stint as the lead designer for Balenciaga-has bucked the system, showing his work in June and December, each time about three months before the regular Fashion Week shows.
“The old method isn’t working anymore and everyone has to find their own way of interpreting that,” he said. “Everyone is allowed to try different things. It’s acceptable to be disruptive.” That’s how he sees his new collaboration with Bulgari: a new definition of luxury, which evolves to remain relevant. “If this (collaboration) was done maybe 10 years ago, it would have raised a few more eyebrows,” Wang said, “But today, it’s accepted that two very different brands can talk together.”
Wang, easily recognizable with his mane of long jet-black hair, has created a line of handbags for Bulgari, the Italian jewelry brand that has gradually expanded into watch-making, accessories and hotels. The limited-edition collection, which will formally launch on September 23, is a reinterpretation of the snakehead-adorned Serpenti line first launched in 2012. Wang said his work on the collection began during a trip to Rome, when he visited the Bulgari archives to see the original Serpenti pieces.
“What was this customer about?” he asked himself. “And this idea of the sinful woman really struck another chord.” As “the creative juice started flowing,” Wang said he wanted to create something “timeless” but also practical, so he made sure the bags had extra pockets and could be easily carried.
What are we trying to say here?
Wang, who has always embraced a combination of high and low fashion in his work, liked how his modern fashion sense could combine with Bulgari, an storied brand with a different way of thinking. “The point of a collaboration is to create something new and to push the boundaries on how people could view two narratives becoming one,” he said. Wang’s high-low aesthetic is now dominating the fashion world, with the reinvention of sportswear affecting everyone up to the biggest names in European luxury.
“There’s an appreciation for other kinds of brands and ways of dressing and ways of talking about creation and creativity that weren’t as celebrated before,” Wang said. His collaborations with other brands-he has also done capsule collection for Adidas and Uniqlo-have been a way to learn about other corporate cultures and looks, he explained. “I’m not the kind of creative that lost myself into a room and sketched for a week and passed it off to them. That’s not how I work,” Wang noted.
“I’m always someone that likes to get people together. I like to have conversations, to have dialogue, to have direct feedback.” Since abandoning the traditional Fashion Week calendar, Wang-whose parents are from Taiwan-has looked to his family’s roots for inspiration, delivering more personal collections in the last 18 months. He emphasized his desire for his work to have a “very strong point of view” and a “purpose.” “I say that every day to my design team and the people that I work with,” said Wang. “What are we trying to say here?”–AFP