H&M has been doing designer collaborations for 10 years. Its latest – with Alexander Wang – is set to be another sellout when it launches in November. The designer, the first American to work with the high-street brand, is already a massive influence on H&M customers’ wardrobes, even if they don’t know it.
Still only 30, Wang is a bright young thing of fashion. His label, which launched in 2007 when Wang was only in his early 20s, is about a tough, downtown aesthetic with a sportswear edge, and just enough of the 90s aesthetic that those too young to live it first time are reassessing. His Rocco bag, with a studded base, became an instant sellout, and his T spin-off brand of basics made the grey marl T-shirt, with just the right amount of drape, a designer item. A coterie of friends including Erin Wasson and Vanessa Traina only helped his cause as the photogenic pied piper of Manhattan cool. His new gig as creative director of Balenciaga since last year – following none other than industry favourite Nicolas Ghesquière – clinched his move from one-to-watch to major player.
The H&M collaboration feels right. Wang follows a rollcall that includes household names – Karl Lagerfeld, Versace – as well as more cult, insider designers such as Isabel Marant and Marni. He’s probably somewhere between the two. Not quite the banner name yet, the implication is that he is on the way there, a star in the making. To the next generation of fashion consumers – those now in the teens and early 20s – he’s a designer that consistently comes up with the goods.
So what can we expect from Wang x H&M? As someone with a successful sister line – most pieces from T are under £400 – he already knows how to make desirable clothes without four-figure price tags. All about effortless style verging on minimalism, Wang is an expect in perfecting the basics that dominate urban wardrobes – sweatshirts, draped T-shirts, stretch mini skirts, backpacks – so expect some of those. Colours will no doubt be muted – Wang’s world is dominated by shades that look good when next to concrete: grey, black and a smattering of pastels. Prints will probably be off the menu, though logos are a possibility. Wang’s spring/summer 2014 collection turned the 90s classic “Parental Advisory” label – for ever associated with gangster rap of the era – into sweatshirts, swiftly sported by Rihanna.
That the collaboration was announced via Wang’s Instagram account and at Coachella festival speaks volumes. This is a collaboration pitched at the demographic poring over social media pictures of this fashion plate of a festival. Wang is no doubt on their radar but they’re probably aspiring to – rather than buying – the designer’s main line. Wang has said that he’s planning a lifestyle collection that will be a “completely new take on how [H&M does] collaborations”. What that means is unclear, but Wang’s instinct has rarely been wrong. Queues outside stores come November are a sure thing.
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