Alexander Wang - Why Balenciaga's New Top Designer Shuns The "Chinese" Label

Is the American-born Wang the Jeremy Lin of the fashion world?

Fashion, Wang style
Fashion, Wang style
By A Guai and Wang Yong

BEIJING - So it’s Alexander Wang after all. The Chinese-American designer has been plucked to take over at Balenciaga as its new artistic director.

Speculation over the last month as to who would be designated by the French company was rife in fashion circles. Women’s Wear Daily claimed that it was going to be the British designer Christopher Kane, after which a long list of names were trotted out by a fervent press including Wang, Joseph Altuzarra, Mary Katrantzou and Pedro Lourenco.

As attention centered around these new names, all seemed to forget about Nicolas Ghesquiere, though it was thanks to him that the doddering brand made it back to the top of the fashion world. Just a few months ago, his Spring-Summer 2013 collection for Balenciaga was the talk of the trendy town. Alas, fashion is a very fickle world indeed.

The biggest concern now is what will Alexander Wang bring to this time-honored Parisian house? Is he going to be like Mark Jacobs who has succeeded in building both his own brand and that of Louis Vuitton? Who will benefit most from the reshuffle, himself or Balenciaga?

A recent post online captures Wang’s design style. In the post, Lindsay Lohan wears a white T-shirt, and readers are asked to guess which designer’s clothes the Hollywood bad girl is wearing.

The answer was given real fast, Alexander Wang. Why? A white shirt is the most basic design piece. Its details can be ever-changing or immutable. But the side pocket that Wang always adds on his white shirt is a sort of personal trademark.

Fashion's new star, Alexander Wang - Photo: Ed Kavishe

Beyond excelling in this kind of fine processing on details, Wang is also very skilled in the way he treats cashmere. Since he launched his first ready-to-wear collection in New York in 2007, his model-off-duty-look concept has gained recognition. He is convinced that good clothes shouldn’t look good only on the cat-walk, but that they should also be suitable for daily wear.

Though an ethnic Chinese, Alexander Wang is what some refer to as a typical “Banana:” Asian on the outside, Western on the inside. He has Chinese physical features, but doesn’t speak Chinese. Born to Taiwanese-American parents in Los Angeles in 1983 he moved to New York when he was 18 years old to study fashion design at the Parsons New School for Design.

He dropped out in his sophomore year, but by then he had already worked an internship with Marc Jacob and Vogue Magazine and laid down a solid network of contacts in fashion circles.

Not only does Anna Wintour, the famous Vogue editor-in-chief, adore him, but Diane von Furstenberg, the President of the Association of American fashion, gave him mentor-like guidance. This fantastic human network and his own excellent design talent won him, in 2009, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award and, in 2010, the Most Potential Accessory Designer Award.

Just like Jeremy Lin who set off a publicity whirlwind at the NBA, now the Chinese fashion world is also jumping and cheering about an ethnic Chinese designer gaining worldwide recognition.

However, Wang isn’t really so keen on being identified as an “Ethnic Chinese designer.” When I interviewed him last May in Beijing at the opening of his second global flagship store, he felt that he had nothing to do with this concept of being Chinese. “We are doing this in English, right?” he asked anxiously before accepting the interview.

Wang certainly doesn’t hold the idea, like most Chinese designers, that “Chinese elements” ought to be put in the clothes he designs, nor does he adhere to “promoting traditional Chinese culture,” as so often claimed by Chinese designers.

When asked whether or not his ethnic background affects his design, Wang firmly denied it. He put it in a very smart and impeccable way: “ I have lived in New York for more than ten years, but I do not design for New Yorkers. I feel my clients are all world citizens. My design is broader and more sensual. We are a generation linked together through culture, music and experiences -- not background.”

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.



• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.


"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.



For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.


Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️


We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.


Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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