Alexander Wang's Balenciaga Hire Causes Fashion Industry to Be Up in Arms

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Can the New York streetwear designer follow in Nicolas Ghesquiere's fashion footsteps?

There's been speculation that Balenciaga would hire young New York designer Alexander Wang to be the new creative director of women's and men's ready-to-wear and accessories (i.e. the famous biker bag). When it was made official Monday, the fashion industry was a bit up in arms. Of course, it's always up in arms about something but the observations of insiders are at least interesting to note. 

Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga founded the house in Paris, and it did not have a great revival until Nicolas Ghesquiere took the reigns in the last decade. It quickly became the coolest brand, not just Paris in but all of Europe. Ghesquiere's cuts were always unusual, his fabrics amazing, color choices unique and his clothes have shown up at the Oscars (see: Jennifer Connelly) and red carpets on ladies who like to go in a different direction. The prices were high but the distinctive pieces made them worth it.

Wang has become famous and celebrated for making dark streetwear, T-shirts and handbags with grommets and spikes. He has the cool of Ghesquiere but his target audience has been young. Can he appeal to an audience of luxury shoppers who are discriminating when it comes to designer goods? One rumor as to Ghesquiere's resignation is that PPR, parent company to Gucci Group and Balenciaga, wanted to make the brand more commercial. Wang is an excellent choice for that; he'll make the silhouettes much more accessible. How he's going to differentiate it from his own line is anybody's guess. 

The insiders are grousing. The New York Times Cathy Horyn wrote that while she hopes Wang won't make Balenciaga "mainstream," she's keeping an open mind. Horyn hasn't been the biggest fan of Wang's past collections, but then again, his demo has been girls 17 to 30, for the most part.

The Financial Times' Vanessa Friedman thinks Balenciaga is going to target the contemporary market, particularly in China, where Wang has family connections. She calls this "sacreligious."

But Newsweek's Robin Givhan says not to underestimate Wang's ability to make everything look cooler. WWD's Miles Socha agreed, saying Wang will make Balenciaga "less elitest."

Meanwhile, Wang will continue to oversee his lucrative line of clothes, shoes and bags, which are selling like low-calorie hotcakes wherever they're carried. He's about to be one busy dude.

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