Alexander Wang Originally Rejected the Balenciaga Job

He also recounted his early career setbacks during a talk at SCAD.
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He also recounted his early career setbacks during a talk at SCAD.
Alexander Wang with a student at SCAD. Photo: Stephanie Krell/SCAD

Alexander Wang with a student at SCAD. Photo: Stephanie Krell/SCAD

Students at the Savannah College of Art and Design wrapped around the block outside of the Trustees Theater in Savannah on Tuesday, waiting hours in the rain for Alexander Wang. The designer was there to participate in an interview with Domenico De Sole, chairman of Tom Ford International and chair of this year's SCADStyle, a week of design and fashion discussions at the school.

Wang told the students that when Balenciaga first offered him the job of creative director, he declined. The company responded by offering him a visit the legendary couturier’s archive. Wang said felt like burglar due to the security precautions the design house took to keep his hiring under wraps when they allowed him to tour it. “They had to shut down the security cameras,” recalled Wang.

In the end, it was that visit to the archive that convinced him to take the vacancy that Nicolas Ghesquière’s departure left open. “Seeing the archive in person, as a creative person when you see something like that it puts sparks into you,” said Wang. “It kind of just triggered me. It really inspired me to think about it.”

As for the recent announcement about his collaboration with H&M, Wang wouldn’t give any further details aside from saying, “It will be a new approach that they haven’t done before.”

Wang shared his early rejections with the students, including one from a showroom that rejected his debut sweater line because it had just filled capacity. “I think my heart just dropped,” said Wang. “I did not know what to do. I was completely lost, and I think that was one of the most difficult points in my life.” 

Fortunately, his sister-in-law convinced him to carry on, and they started the business together by getting a booth at a tradeshow after being featured in Women’s Wear Daily. Orders from Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman followed — as well as an offer to sign them on from a showroom that previously ignored their calls. 

When the conversation went in the direction of how to run a fashion business, De Sole, who, along with Tom Ford, brought Gucci back to life from near bankruptcy in the ‘90s, advised the audience to “take one course in accounting.” “Please do it,” he pleaded. “You will thank me.”

The discussion ended on a light note, with an eager student asking Wang what his favorite food is and how to get a job with him. The designer said his favorite food is Vietnamese. “I like food that’s under $10,” he said as the crowd laughed, before telling her to “send me your résumé.” 

So there you have aspiring fashion designers: To impress Wang, send him bánh mì along with your résumé, and you may score an interview.