Following a month of uncertainty since Alexander Wang and the luxury conglomerate Kering acknowledged discussions were underway about the designer’s ongoing role as creative director of Balenciaga, a new report in Women’s Wear Daily on Wednesday said his contract is not being renewed. While Kering has not commented on the report—officially, discussions are still under way—it’s a fairly clear indication of where things are going.
According to WWD, Wang’s spring 2016 collection, to be shown during Paris Fashion Week this fall, will be his last for Balenciaga, after three years there. The reason for his departure is not exactly clear, although Wang has carried a heavy burden during that time, running his signature collection in New York while simultaneously designing Balenciaga collections in Paris. Besides Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo, he’s the first American designer in a generation to manage dual roles, something that used to be more common in fashion (Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, and Oscar de la Renta did the New York-Paris commute for decades). But the increasing demands on designers to produce four or more collections each year, including presentations or shows for their resort and pre-fall lines, and maybe men’s wear, too, has made it harder for anyone to keep up.
By all accounts, Wang was a pro at compartmentalizing his work. Although he faced resistance from French traditionalists at the time of his appointment (then 28 years old), his Balenciaga collections grew stronger each season, especially beginning with this spring’s collection that most effectively fused couture with street. That collection included sunglasses with straps designed to look like Croakies, in beaded satin neoprene, and shoes fashioned after cycling gear from the Tour de France. His fall show was even tougher, with starkly structured dresses and, as most critics noticed, some embellishments made of razor blades.
In an interview early this year for the March issue of InStyle, Wang told me he was in fact energized by the challenge of designing for both labels, and Balenciaga, particularly, “to be able to work with the atelier.” Still, he never seemed eager to get too close to Paris, staying at hotels during his work time in the city, while his fulltime residence remained in New York. Meanwhile, his signature line here continues to grow, so perhaps his reported departure is as simple as wanting to spend more time at home.