The Moment: Alexander Wang kicked off a talk at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Thursday evening by noting he normally feels out of place in its hallowed halls, intimidated by the Met Gala, wowed by its Costume Institute exhibition, or more generally, in his words, “I feel like such a scrub.”
He was kidding, of course, bringing his signature irreverence to the stage for the latest edition of “The Atelier with Alina Cho,” the series of designer interviews with the former CNN journalist and current editor at large for Ballantine Bantam Del. In this episode, we learned more of Wang’s tastes in music (his new playlists for Apple Music’s Fashion Channel feature Rihanna, Drake, Juicy J, and more, categorized by moods of chill, hype, and vibe), his work ethic (as hard as his play ethic), and his one secret skill:
“I have a very special gift,” Wang told the audience, “in that I don’t get hung over.”
That unstudied, unpretentious sense of tequila-impervious cool is, one could say, inherent to the Alexander Wang brand. That’s something that hasn’t changed since its inception a little more than a decade ago, and that has only been reinforced since the designer returned his full-time focus to the collection after a three-year dual stint at Balenciaga.
There is also a serious side to Wang, one that is reflected in the success of his own business, created without outside investment, and his ambition to adapt to a changing consumer world in which the norms of retail have been upended. Making decisions, whether to drop out of Parsons to start his collection at an early age, taking the job at Balenciaga, or creating a line for H&M, all come down to one thing, he said.
“My thing is never live life with regrets,” Wang said.
Why It’s a Wow: Wang revealed a few details about his time at Balenciaga and his decision to leave, most notably that he acknowledged the stress that came when critics questioned his appointment in the first place. “I’m human,” he said. But he made a smart decision at the start of that job, telling his staff and friends not to show him any reviews of his collections for the first two years. That’s unusual for any designer, and a sign of his confidence to trust himself that he was going at it the right way.
Wang has always been suspicious of fashion speak, anyway, and as he told the audience, rather than talking about egos or ideas, he’d rather say to everybody, “let’s dance.” To that end, Cho wrapped up with a lightning round of questions:
Cho: “Snapchat or Instagram?”
Cho: “Netflix or Amazon?”
Wang: “Amazon. I’ve never used Netflix before.”
Cho: “Sweet or savory?”
Wang: “Both. I’m like, throw in all the flavors.”
Cho: “Kanye or Drake?”
Wang: “Both. That’s like do you like your mom or dad better.”
Cho: “More or less?”
Wang: “In what context? I am definitely a minimalist when it comes to my personal life, I want to wear one thing and eat one thing, but I am a maximalist when it comes to work.”
Cho: “You want to eat one thing?”
Wang: “Chinese food.”
Cho: “Carbs or protein?”
And there you have it.