With the official announcement of Wang at Balenciaga, those weeping at the prospect of stretchy bike shorts appearing on the Paris, PPR-owned runway can rest knowing, at the very least, that the appointment will usher in a new era for the hallowed fashion house. That’s a good thing — Balenciaga, at its core, has always been known for innovation and the decision, of course, was made to bring the brand into the mainstream. His strongest asset is his clear cut vision, which has evolved from just the slouchy tee and leather shorts, to suit a girl who is refined but edgy and a little tough, a look that’s already popular throughout Asia, an important and booming market for both Balenciaga and Wang’s own line.
But can Wang make Balenciaga commercially successful and as beautiful as Ghesquière? We think he can. We've sifted through every runway look of Wang's career, looking for evidence of vision and technique that might serve him well at his new Paris studio. Despite being known for slouchy tees and leather shorts, Wang knows how to sculpt a bra-top and tailor a motorcycle jacket in a look that is his own. He’s created unusual, cool evening wear that women want to wear, and is unafraid of putting out something that's completely different.
The best thing Wang has going for him is the ability to unite a million different garments and ideas under the same banner of “cool.” Every item he’s created, from runway to diffusion tees and small leather goods, are distinctly Wang; there’s no question who designed them. This will be especially beneficial at Balenciaga, where the commercial pieces available in stores have wandered, looking only distantly related to the runway creations. So, while Wang’s never really showed couture techniques or sculptural fashion, his consistency is impressive, especially for a young designer. His understanding and knack for innovative manufacturing, particularly with accessories and knits, will also prove useful.
Can Wang maintain his singular design vision through Balenciaga's house, observing its past (even just a little bit) while designing for its future? He has a good shot. The rarified beauty, vivid colors, sculpted silk coats, capes, and dresses that Balenciaga is known for will benefit from the tough pavement aesthetic of Wang. And with access to those incredible archives of patterns, fabrics, the atelier, and high-quality craftsmen, Wang should create something surprising and iconic.
To see what that might look like, we’ve compared some of Wang’s own looks with classics from Balenciaga. You’ll see yourself that the young designer, despite all the criticism, may just be able to pull this off.