This past weekend Teen Vogue hosted an event for aspiring fashionistas, which included question and answer sessions — led by Teen Vogue editor-in-chiefAmy Astley — with some of the most renowned names in the industry. I must admit that I was just as excited as the high school students sitting next to me when design prodigies Alexander Wang,Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough took the stage.
In two separate sessions Alex Wang and the Proenza Schouler boys shared their successes, failures, hopes for the future and advice with the next generation of fashion insiders. Read on for some highlights from each session and fall a little more in love with the masterminds behind the ‘Coco’ duffel bag and the PS1.
Alexander Wang: The ‘Street’ Darling
From his humble first collection of knitwear, sold predominantly in consignment stores, Alexander Wang has built an empire. As Wang described his aesthetic to an enthralled audience, he cited sportswear and the notion of taking things “out of context” as huge building blocks for his collections. What he describes as “classics with a twist” we call wardrobe essentials. The androgynous nature of fashion is perfected in Alexander Wang’s clothing, which he attributes to his tendency to toy with definitions of sexuality.
While Wang’s clothing certainly comes with a hefty price tag, it was refreshing to learn that the idea behind the price is that Wang wants only the best quality materials and the most concise stitching for his items. Wang can certainly be describes as something of a Renaissance man: not only does he control the design team, but he is a keen businessman who is in touch with every section of his large company.
Wang, who at the tender young age of 27 is already firmly established as a coveted fashion designer, recognizes the importance of internships, having invested his own time back in his ‘younger’ years interning for legends like Marc Jacobs.
Although Wang’s aesthetic has evolved as he has gotten older, his primary intention is to create a brand that “filters into the way the customer lives.” With his beautiful flagship store in downtown NYC, it seems Wang has done just that. Everything that he touches, whether it be a simple knit sweater or a pair of gravity-defying heels, embraces the simple silhouettes and slight masculinity that we have come to expect from the designer.
Wang offered words of encouragement to the audience, encouraging the youngsters around him to stand firm in their convictions and not be persuaded out of what they know is right.
The one question Wang didn’t answer? Whether or not we can expect him to collaborate with a larger, more inexpensive store like H&M. Wang skirted around the question, admitting that he doesn’t want to take his collection and “make it cheaper.” For him to do something it has to be “new and different.”
Proenza Schouler: The Wonder Boys
Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough, the designers behind the highly successfulProenza Schouler label, shuffled on stage Saturday morning a little dishevelled, perhaps hungover, but definitely adorable. They spoke with Amy as though the three of them were old friends (which they actually are) and shared their history, which dates back to their freshman year at Parsons.
After a 4 year friendship, the two approached the professor heading up their senior collections who happened to be the one and only Tim Gunn, asking for permission to complete their senior collection as a duo. Thankfully, Gunn agreed, and the result is a label that every girl dreams about.
Among the judges examining the senior collections that year was Julie Gilhart who, at that time, was the head of fashion at Barneys. After the collections were presented Gilhartapproached Jack and Lazaro and asked to purchase their entire collection for the famous and historic department store. This was a break that most designers only dream of!
For Jack and Lazaro, who named their brand after their mother’s maiden names, the most important aspect of design is the artistic process; business can always come later. They are always looking for a point of view and a way of approaching things that is specific to them.
The two had just returned from Washington, DC where they spoke to Congress on the issue of trademarking actual designs. Their wildly popular PS1 bag is subject to knock-offs by street vendors and more commercial brands alike.
Besides their bags, their apparel collection is comprised of original, well crafted and thought out pieces that speak to a high fashion sensibility. They credit Anna Wintour, Vogue and New York — which, according to them, is where the industry happens — with their ability to command a place in the world of luxury fashion
But want to know what we were most excited to discover? The boys are in the midst of opening a store! The space has been decided on and they are working with a “bad ass” architect. But of course, like everything the Proenza Schouler duo take on, the space has to have artistic merit. Which means the store itself will be a site for sore eyes.