There’s been plenty of speculation surrounding Alexander Wang’s recent appointment as Balenciaga’s Creative Director. Is he really the right man for the job? Is his slouchy-chic aesthetic too out of the realm for a fashion house steeped in heritage? What will become of his eponymous and super-commercial line? So many questions!
Now, Francois-Henri Pinault, the CEO of PPR (the parent company that owns Balenciaga), has thrown another curveball at us with his recent remark that he could foresee Wang catapulting the storied fashion house to couture status. “He has a very strong talent not only when it comes to accessible product, but his talent could also be adapted for couture at Balenciaga,” Pinault told CBS, via WWD.
Even though Pinault’s comment was speculative, it’s given us a lot to think about. Up until this point, Wang made his name on the creation of slouchy, casual, downtown basics integrated with luxury elements like unique cutting techniques and elevated materials. Though Wang’s talent isn’t in question, becoming a couturiers is no easy feat.
What exactly is a couturier? Despite what you may think, there’s more to creating couture garments than the skills with which to do it. In fact, there are a number of super-strict rules implemented by the French Federation of Fashion and Ready-to-Wear Couturiers and Fashion Designers that must be adhered to before a designer can be considered a couturier.
To follow in the footsteps of Chanel, Valentino, and Dior, Balenciaga would have to have more than one fitting with private clients, run a Paris atelier of at least 15 full-time workers, and run a workshop of twenty full-time technical employees. Oh, and the 28-year-old Wang would have to design clothes that measure up to these standards.
Our two cents: We can’t help but think that if Balenciaga really wanted to make to the move into couture—yet still reach a younger consumer in new markets—Theory designer and Creative Director, Olivier Theyskens might have been a better choice. Theyskens is well-versed in both the cool-girl aesthetic that Wang’s known for, but also in couture technique. Theyskens was lauded for his use of demicouture during his stint at Rochas (which means he created pieces too expensive to mass-produce but didn’t meet the strict rules about hand-stitching and numbers of fittings to be considered haute couture).
So while the jury’s still out on whether Balenciaga will go in a couture direction, it’s a safe bet that the fashion world be watching Wang closely as he settles into this new, high-profile role.