Perhaps you heard, but since his last time on the runway, Alexander Wang was named the creative director at Balenciaga, succeeding Nicolas Ghesquière. How will the 29-year-old designer change Balenciaga? How will Balenciaga change him? There were enough questions swirling today to fill the grand spaces of the Cunard Building, the cinematic venue where Wang was showing for the first time. Looking for answers, it was tempting to find them in the opening notes of his soundtrack. It was "Eye of the Tiger," theme song from Rocky III, the one in which Rocky "rises up to the challenge of his rival."
Before the show, the designer said he was looking at boxing, so that explains that. Fur mittens and ribbed knit caps tucked under matching snoods were obvious props. More generally, Wang was fixated on roundness and blurriness. "A reaction," he said, "to the graphic slickness and flat angularity" of his last collection. We've been talking a lot about texture this week, but Wang took the burgeoning trend to new levels. Caught by the fuzz, he brushed mohair to give it a hairy quality, embroidered leather appliqués on alpaca, and overstitched astrakhan with silk threads. His colors were grayed-out and foggy, save for a rust-colored ponyhair. Focusing first and foremost on outerwear, he cut his coats oversize and with dropped waists, sometimes adding a crisscross detail or a draped twist of extra fabric at the midsection. Hunkered down, his girls will be ready to do battle with the elements next winter, at the very least.
There was plenty of the designer's moody showmanship on display, but will these looks fly off the runway and directly into cool girls' closets? (Wang's knack for making that happen is purportedly one of the reasons Balenciaga came calling.) A sweatshirt with a fur body and knit sleeves had that kind of potential, as did sweaters stitched with columns of faintly iridescent sequins that dipped precipitously in back. Simple duchesse satin T-shirts with little slices at the shoulders worn with tapered trousers in the same rich fabric keyed back to the airiness of his Spring collection. Who knows what we'll see in Paris two and a half weeks from now, but we're hopeful that it captures some of the easy verve of those evening pieces.