Alexander Wang & Balenciaga Are Officially Over

Photo: REX USA.
Alexander Wang and Balenciaga are calling it quits after two-and-a-half years of going steady. Wang was tapped as creative director for the storied French fashion house in December 2012, and he had some very large shoes to fill — Nicolas Ghesquiere left after 15 strong years to join Louis Vuitton. Earlier this month, speculation mounted about whether Balenciaga’s parent company, Kering, would renew Wang’s contract, and the company confirmed today that it’s parting ways with the designer. His last Balenciaga show will be on October 2 during Paris Fashion Week.

‘It’s been an incredible experience to work with a couture house in Paris. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work for this historical maison,” Wang said in a statement. “I would like to thank the brilliant team at Balenciaga for their collaboration and for what we have accomplished together, and I am looking forward to taking my own brand to its next level of growth."

Besides a formal statement, Wang took a thoroughly modern approach to saying farewell to Balenciaga via Twitter and Instagram:

@balenciaga

A photo posted by ALEXANDER WANG (@alexanderwangny) on


So who will replace Wang? It might be a relative unknown, as Balenciaga could go the route of another major Kering-owned brand, Gucci, which opted to promote its head of accessories and a 13-year vet of the label, Alessando Michele, to the creative-director role in January. The reviews have been pretty kind so far. Kering is “open to considering a lesser-known, hidden talent for the plum post [at Balenciaga], emboldened by the positive feedback and outpouring of goodwill” that Michele’s promotion ushered in, according to WWD. It could be a behind-the-scenes star at Balenciaga (or someone from another brand in Kering’s luxury portfolio, like Bottega Veneta, Christopher Kane, or Stella McCartney). One name that’s been thrown into the mix is buzzy 25-year-old designer Simon Porte Jacquemus.

The wild-card hire, like Michele’s appointment at Gucci, happens all too infrequently in an industry that tends to shuffle the same few marquee talents among creative-director gigs. Wang’s role at Balenciaga came as a surprise, too, but mostly because the designer seemed like a boy wonder for such a venerable house (and because of his eponymous line’s edgy, “downtown” vibe, which no doubt helped him score the job — not because he was some unknown industry entity).

As for why it didn’t work? It probably isn’t a performance issue, judging by the numbers. Balenciaga is currently profitable, with revenues of $387 million. “The dynamic growth of the brand over the last years bears testimony to his successful creative work,” Balenciaga president and CEO, Isabelle Guichot, said in a statement.

Could it have been the burnout effect of trying to juggle too much? Wang’s namesake brand is as hot as ever, and his shuttling between his eponymous brand's HQ, based in his NYC home turf, and Balenciaga’s Paris atelier, while it sounds completely glamorous, was probably exhausting. The reviews were good, starting with Wang's very first collection for the house, though they weren’t stellar.

He also could be opting to focus on making his own brand even bigger, sort of like a younger version of Marc Jacobs when he ended his creative-director stint at LVMH to double down on his namesake brand. Wang has been seeking investment to grow his brand for the past year, and the search could be ending soon: Business of Fashion says that “according to a source familiar with the talks, the pool of potential investors recently narrowed to one.”

Stay tuned for news on Balenciaga’s next creative director. We’re rooting for an under-the-radar type to take over. Fashion could use more of those refreshing “Wait, who?” moments.

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