Five Questions For Alexander Wang
Alexander Wang has always had a talent for seizing the fashion industry’s attention. In 2004, the neophyte designer found himself in the pages of The New York Times thanks to a baggy cashmere cardigan graced, on its back, by an intarsia image of Angela Lindvall. The supermodel nod was simultaneously glamour-puss and punk, and in the years since, Wang has made himself a cornerstone of the downtown style scene by continuing to tap into his own edgy irreverence. This year, Wang was tapped as a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. The winner of the 2008 prize will be announced November 17; in the meantime, Wang answers Style.com’s questions about life in the Top Ten.
What made you want to be a designer?
I don’t think there was any other option for me. I mean, I always loved fashion. Growing up in the eighties, I’d watch my mom get dressed up to go out. [I'd watch] my sister get ready to go to, like, Madonna concerts, pulling on those purple boots. It was definitely a fixation—and a source of comfort, too. When I went to boarding school, the one thing I’d look forward to every month was the day I’d go to my mailbox and find my copy of Vogue in there.
What was the scariest moment of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund process?
Before I went and met with all the judges, I had this intense fear that I’d just totally freeze up, you know? The thought of having everyone in front of me was really intimidating, as was the idea that I’d only have 15 minutes to get it all out—everything important that I’d ever want to say about myself. But they were so nice and so chill. That didn’t happen at all.
The whole process seems rather nerve-racking. How did you try to relax or forget about it all?
Work. I’m serious: For me, doing this is such a labor of love. I haven’t minded digging into it. I’ve been working hard for years, and then CFDA/Vogue drove me a little harder. And then it was back to the business and thinking about my Fall collection. I’m like anybody who has a long day at work. Every so often, I’ve got to head to the dive bar and have a glass of something. Or go see a movie with my friends.
First prize gets you $200,000, which will no doubt be useful. But where did your first funding come from?
Funding? I was working out of my dorm room. And my sister-in-law was in San Francisco, working too. We’d take samples in suitcases and sell them to stores door-to-door. Baby steps.
What’s your up-and-coming designer’s take on the current economic crisis?
I think we’re being extra-mindful of the fact that every decision we make is a business decision. There’s a certain amount of fantasy to fashion, but you also have to think about the fit, the sell-through, the accessibility. There’s no point in creating clothes so out-there, so special that no one can wear them. I try to stay in touch with the customer. We’ve been lucky—our sales are growing. I think we were also pretty lucky to get out a T-shirt line. It’s nice to have a $65 product. But it’s also nice to have a $1,200 dress, say, for that person at Colette. The key now is that dress has to be worth what it costs.