Rihanna in 2013 Alexander Wang performing at the X factor final.
Balenciaga, the Parisian fashion house, has confirmed that American designer Alexander Wang will become its creative director.
Wang takes the reins from Nicolas Ghesquière, who left the house last month after 15 years, and potentially ushers in a new era. While Ghesquière had become an industry favourite for collections that scored rave reviews and fans including French Vogue editor, Emmanuelle Alt, 28-year-old Wang may have the ability to take the brand to a wider audience. His aesthetic – which centres around sportswear details and fabrics mixed with an edge of tough rock'n'roll – has quickly gained followers since he launched his eponymous brand in 2007 at the age of 23. It has grown impressively – picking up high profile fans across the red carpet, from Rihanna to Olivia Palermo and Kim Kardashian.
A family business, privately owned, Alexander Wang now has 12 stores, with a 5,000 sq ft boutique opening this year in Beijing. Wang will continue with his brand after taking up his position at Balenciaga. "He's a designer with an American sensibility, making modern clothes," says fashion blogger and journalist Melanie Rickey. "I think he'll put Balenciaga into more stores, and give it a better price point."
This commercial acumen is the industry consensus of what PPR – the parent company of Balenciaga, along with Gucci, Saint Laurent Paris and Alexander McQueen – want in the aftermath of Ghesquière. While the French designer revived the house – originally set up by Cristobal Balenciaga in 1937 – with a mixture of modern juxtapositions (his autumn/winter collection for the brand made cheesy sci-fi graphics the height of chic), and clever use of the house's archive, it was always, says Rickey, a "high end and exclusive" house. Wang, by contrast, "is the commercial choice".
Wang is the first American designer to take up a role in a major Parisian house since Marc Jacobs became Louis Vuitton's creative director in 1997. Unlike Jacobs – or indeed Ghesquière – the San Francisco-born designer doesn't have a dusty name to revive and make relevant for a new generation. Indeed, stepping into the shoes of such a storied designer as Ghesquière – who some argue is the biggest talent of his generation – may be harder. "It's a double legacy," says Harriet Quick, the editorial director of Lux Up, the luxury members' site that works with Balenciaga. "What is Wang going to bring to that DNA? It's a massive task."
Quick believes he may be up to it, however. "He's an extremely hard worker and very driven," she says. "He's got commercial business savvy married with a strong point of view. That's the cocktail you want now."
Isabelle Guichot, chief executive of the brand, said it was proud to welcome Wang, and praised his "proven talent, modernity and individual and cosmopolitan vision of design." Wang responded: "I am deeply honoured to embark on this new role for a brand and a house that I have such great admiration and respect for."