The New Alexander Wang Store (And the New Alexander Wang)


Published February 16, 2011



If there exists one quintessential face of fashion, one designer who sums up the current zeitgeist, it would have to be Alexander Wang. Starting his career ahead of the curve, the young (he’s only 26), soft-spoken designer is now setting the curve. And while his shows pull the editorial elite and stars with edge wear his styles, Mr. Wang has finally, really become a true fashion force: he’s got his own standalone store in Soho.

Wang looks comfortable in the open-air space, which was inspired in part by his own apartment. His relaxed nature is surprising: he just wrapped his Fall 2011 show and hosted his store opening, and he’s heading to London for a Love Magazine party in several days. But, in the bright location, Wang seemed at home next to an overstuffed leather couch and a fur hammock. A large, walk-through cube stands at the front of the space, wrapped by massive garlands of baby’s breath—lending a softness to the structured, white marble interior. The marble serves as a pedestal for Wang’s accessories, which included bangles fresh from Saturday’s show. He took the time to take Interview through the 3,500-square-foot space, designed by his friend Ryan Korban, where he pointed out his favorite flowers, special-edition leather and, of course, the strangeness of having a store with his name emblazoned on the front.

LEILA BRILLSON: Tell us how you were involved in the interior.

ALEXANDER WANG: I worked for a very long time with Ryan to develop the language of our showroom. I wanted this to feel like an extension of something that was very personal. But working on the store, of course, we brought in Robin Kramer (of Kramer Design) who was the design firm and architect, to help us realize the vision, to reinterpret elements and language we already had. We started with the iconic feel of this space—being a landmark building. We worked with the architecture, the open windows and the columns. We wanted to do something quite clean but monolithic, but really ground it with statement pieces like the big cage. The big cage serves as an area for showcasing exclusives or collaborations. There will always be some sort of activity in there.

I really wanted it to feel like people can come in and hang out or lounge around, to take the formality out of shopping. I wanted it to feel like my living room. We have some pieces in our showroom and my house that are covered in goat hair, so we took that idea and did the fur hammock. It’s ironic and a little comical, to lighten up the mood! Or our interpretation of a tufted lawn chair, or a big, oversized stuffed couch. Everything in the store, from the fixtures to the brass, it’s all custom. We really had control from A to Z.

BRILLSON: Are you saying you have a fur hammock in your house?

WANG: I don’t have a fur hammock, but I do have a goat-fur-covered side chairs. I also have one huge chair in the showroom—but I wanted to take those ideas and push them into something specific for the store.

BRILLSON: Here’s a lot of stoic, classic architecture, but mixed with organic touches, like flowers. Will you be changing the flowers? How important are they?

WANG: I love flowers; they are an important part of bringing life into the store. Jeff Leatham, who’s the florist who did the first installation and all of the arrangements for us, is somebody I truly admire and respect. Taking things out of context is so under-appreciated, such as taking baby’s breath and building a huge, structural piece with it. Or the black orchids he imported from Africa. I didn’t know that! I learned something new. But it is so important to bring a sense of life into the space.

BRILLSON: You’ve had an incredible period of activity: the show, the opening, the hosting. What’s next?

WANG: I’m flying to London on Sunday, and I’m doing a big party with Love and Liberty for London Fashion Week! It’s a non-stop rollercoaster! I never complain, because it is always so exciting. When you are having fun, it goes like that! [snaps his fingers]

BRILLSON: How was the opening party you had here? Did you have a good time?

WANG: We had a party last night, and it was a really great time. We usually do huge after-parties in September, but we wanted an intimate party for friends and family only. We had Lauryn Hill perform for us here!

BRILLSON: How was she?

WANG: Amazing! She is such an icon! It was incredible to see her here and have her be a part of this experience.

BRILLSON: Can you tell me about the clothing layout?

WANG: Well, in the beginning, we are offering the exclusive jewelry we showed on the runway up front, which you can buy immediately. We also have exclusive leather that we did just for the store opening: jackets, separates, and vests. We also have some new colors of handbags we made just for the opening. In our studded group, we have a beautiful, new dove gray.

We are also launching small leather goods for fall, which you could have seen on the runway. All of the girls were carrying these small coin purses and wallets.

BRILLSON: As someone who has taken an “alternative” route to success, how does it feel to have a standalone store with your name on it?

WANG: It is amazing. I was sitting in here earlier, and I was really taken in by all the hard work done by my team and everyone I worked with on this final product. It feels like a really nice store, but I keep looking out the window, and it has my name! I’ve dreamt of this day for so long, and now it’s finally here. And now I feel like I’m hanging out at someone else’s store!

BRILLSON: Except with your name on it! But it seems already very settled and organic.

WANG: Right. We wanted something that felt very solid, grounded and permanent. For us, we always like to explore our language: when it’s time for crazy after-parties, we’ll do that. When it’s time for something more intimate, we’ll do that too. When it’s time for pop-up shops, that’s great. But this space—we wanted it to feel very timeless.

BRILLSON: So, what else are you focusing on?

WANG: We are launching men’s ready-to-wear for Fall ’11, which won us the GQ menswear award. We also have the small leather goods—that are just are two launches for fall.

BRILLSON: Those are still two very big projects.

WANG: Ha! Of course.

BRILLSON: What are you going to do tonight?

WANG: Relax. I just finished moving from the East Village to Tribeca, so I can’t wait to unwind.