Alexander Wang Says He Doesn't Speak Mandarin, Is 'Doing Something Quite Different' at Balenciaga

There are just two days standing between us and what's arguably this fashion month's most highly-anticipated event: Alexander Wang's debut for Balenciaga. So Suzy Menkes talked to him, Anna Wintour, PPR CEO François Henri Pinault, and, um, Danielle Steel to dig up some backstory, debunk some rumors, and find out what to expect from Wang's elevated new role.
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There are just two days standing between us and what's arguably this fashion month's most highly-anticipated event: Alexander Wang's debut for Balenciaga. So Suzy Menkes talked to him, Anna Wintour, PPR CEO François Henri Pinault, and, um, Danielle Steel to dig up some backstory, debunk some rumors, and find out what to expect from Wang's elevated new role.
Getty

Getty

There are just two days standing between us and what's arguably this fashion month's most highly-anticipated event: Alexander Wang's debut for Balenciaga. So Suzy Menkes talked to him, Anna Wintour, PPR CEO François Henri Pinault, and, um, Danielle Steel to dig up some backstory, debunk some rumors, and find out what to expect from Wang's elevated new role.

Here's what we learned. While we'd already heard Wang's Balenciaga debut show would be set “in an intimate atmosphere,” now we know where: The back rooms of the Balenciaga salons on Avenue George V, or, as Wang referred to them, "the storage space." Photographers will be given their own presentation separate from editors and guests.

On differentiating the Balenciaga collection from his eponymous line, Wang explained:

My first reaction [to getting the Balenciaga job] was: ‘I am so occupied, I give 110 percent to my brand.’ Then I thought of elevating my team and being given a chance to do all those things I had at the back of my mind. I am doing something quite different from what I do here.

Wang also more or less dismissed rumors that his Chinese connections helped him get the job. A few outlets have reported that Wang speaks Mandarin and that his parents are somehow involved in garment manufacturing in China. Both of those reports are untrue, according to Wang, who tells Menkes he can barely order a bowl of rice in the language. “It’s a false background," he said, "My family had no experience in garment production." Hopefully Balenciaga isn't surprised by this news (hey, we all lie on our resumés, right?).

So what did get him the job if not his Mandarin-speaking abilities? Well, besides talent, we get the feeling Anna Wintour may have helped a little. “He has so much charm and enthusiasm. He’s not moody and broody and his company is very successful. He is a good guy and fashion is lucky to have him,” Wintour said. The Vogue EIC also apparently assured Wang that he'd never forgive himself if he turned down the job. And when Anna tells you something, you listen.

Mr. Pinault also gave Menkes some hints as to the new look of Balenciaga: "We quite quickly came to the decision that we wanted Balenciaga to be approachable, with a certain youthful sportiness."

Oh, and, somewhat inexplicably, there are a lot of quotes from novelist Danielle Steel about how Wang is really talented and a hard-worker. (Wang went to school and is friends with Steel's daughters, Victoria and Vanessa Traina.)

As for Wang's namesake business? The designer definitely isn't throwing all his hard work by the wayside: This year alone will see the launch of 15 new Alexander Wang stores, mostly in Asia.