Alexander Wang: "I never played sports, so it intrigues me"
An interview and a look inside Wang's world
So far, most of the designers that have collaborated with H&M have chosen iconic silhouettes from their own brand and created a sort of 'collection retrospective', however Alexander Wang chose the aesthetics of his own label and three concepts that he and H&M have in common: sport, functionality and outerwear.
And, while fans of the brand prepare to fill their closets with neoprene and mesh, Alexander Wang talks to Buro 24/7 about the new collaboration, innovation and the virtues of sportiness, the night before his runway debut for H&M...
What do you think will be a major hit from your collection for H&M?
I have a lot of favourite items, but technically I am most impressed with the addition of the foam material. What's important for me is practicality, especially in this collection. We use the latest innovative technology – balding (compound fabrics topped with duplicate materials, which preserve its appearance), welding (sintering fibers), and foam material.
In some of the pieces, such as the outerwear, functional solution transforms to become a fashionable item. For example, I like that we used materials that are traditionally associated with scuba diving. The fabrics are kind of an urban armor – and excellent protection from cold weather.
"I live in sportswear, I wear T-shirts, sweatshirts and running shorts everyday, so to me it's second nature."
First, you became the creative director of Balenciaga – a fashion house filled with a rich history. Now you have created a collection for H&M – one of the most popular brands in the world of affordable mass market fashion. And if the difficulties of working with the "historical" big houses are relatively obvious, what was it like working with a large company like H&M?
I think the hierarchy in the fashion world has now changed. One and the same person can buy luxury goods and mass-market items, and then combine these two things into a single outcome. Working on the Alexander Wang x H&M collection, I wanted to create a collection of mid-priced clothes. Sporty style is consistent with the parameters of H&M, so we were able to make a better version, from my own vision. We wanted things of good quality to be available to customers of different incomes.
Your minimalist sporty style created a furore and made you one of the most important designers in America today. Tell us what about your own passion for this aesthetic? Were you athletic as a child?
I always wanted to create a collection inspired by sports. I never played sports, maybe that's why it intrigues me. Nowadays, technology creates such amazing fashion, the most advanced, so I always try to pay special attention to that. I live in sportswear, I wear T-shirts, sweatshirts and running shorts everyday, so to me it's second nature.
There are so many different approaches towards collaborations with H&M. Some of the designers recreate iconic things from his or her's fashion house, producing 'collection retrospectives', while others presents a whole new line based on its brand ethos. Which of these applies to you more?
It would be unfair to repeat what we did a couple of years ago for Alexander Wang. Other designers were fine with "archival" collaborations for H&M, but I wanted to make a collection from scratch.
"H&M is a great partner, truly open to new ideas, open to experimenting with unusual techniques, and with that, we have raised the bar. "
How long did it take to create the collection with the H&M team?
I was very pleased to be the first American designer to be invited to collaborate with H&M, especially now that the brand is celebrating it's 10th anniversary. The entire process, including the first meeting, the design, and production took about a year. It was a pleasure to work with Margareta van den Bosch and her team. H&M is a great partner, truly open to new ideas who love to experiment with unusual techniques, and with that, we have raised the bar.
What do you think of the previous collaborations for H&M?
I love all their projects with well-known designers – and the exciting launch of every collection. I was at the presentation of collaborations with Versace, and Maison Martin Margiela in New York.
How do you imagine your H&M clientele? The same people who love and wear your Alexander Wang label, or a wider audience?
Anyone can find something they love in this collection. Age, personality or cultural background, it doesn't matter.
You have always paid attention not only to clothing and footwear, but also accessories and household items, did you channel this into the H&M collection?
I always think about the different lifestyles of our audience, about what people use in everyday life. So I like that we have included such items like bicycle locks and black utilitarian belts – they bring a sense of humour and originality to the lineup.