Though Alexander Wang has already been at the helm at Balenciaga for about six months, the back story of how he came into that position is still coming together. While we knew Anna Wintour may have given him a nudge in the right direction, we didn’t know that Wang had flat-out turned Kering (formerly PPR) CEO Francois-Henri Pinault down:
“My first reaction to [Pinault] was no,” he told Mark Holgate in a story out in this month’s Vogue. “I told him that I was so preoccupied with what I am doing with my own brand in New York, and I’ll be the most hated man in fashion!”
Unlikely. Pinault didn’t take no for an answer, instead flying Wang to Paris to peruse the Balenciaga archives at 11pm at night. The meeting was quite clandestine–Pinault even had the security cameras disabled so word wouldn’t get out that Ghesquière was being replaced–perhaps by Wang.
Still not convinced, Wang then consulted a psychic, who apparently told him it was his destiny. He also went the practical route, making a pros and cons list:
“I felt that fear was driving my decision-making,” he said. “So I wrote down a list of pros and cons and asked myself, ‘What am I afraid of? The perception of failure? The perception of what people might think?’ I knew that what I wanted completely outweighed all of that.”
Even after accepting the job, he was a bit fearful of criticism (which he did get). “As an American designer coming to a French house that’s been around for a long time—and which had been built up by someone else—one of my biggest fears was that I’d be constantly up against a wall,” he said. “There were a lot of people who were . . . divided when I got the job; there was a lot of speculation as to what direction the brand would take.”
Now, with two promising collections under his belt, he’s getting used to his life in Paris. At the time of Holgate’s interview, Wang said he was excited about ordering room service at the Shangri-la, admitting, “There isn’t anyone yet whom I feel comfortable with picking up the phone and asking to dinner.”
Aww, we’ll totally have dinner with you any time we’re in Paris, Alex. It’s on Kering, right?