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Lessons From the Alexander Wang x H&M Press Conference

 Photo: Catwalking/Getty Images
Photo: Catwalking/Getty Images

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This morning in Nolita, Vogue creative digital director Sally Singer moderated a press conference with H&M creative adviser Margareta van den Bosch and Alexander Wang, who needs no qualifier.

Since the unanticipated announcement of the collaboration, which happened in the middle of Coachella, we've known we were in for a surprise. In reality, it's been surprise after surprise after surprise.

Fortunately, this morning's discussion shed a little light on the makings of the campaign, the thought process behind the collection, and just how athletic you have to be to appreciate Wang's performance wear. So what did we learn, other than that Alexander Wang literally glows even very early on the rainiest of New York City mornings, and wears a middle part better than anyone?

Photo: via Popsugar

H&M approached Wang a year and a half ago, and the designer immediately knew he wanted to take things in a different direction than anything they'd tried in the past. "They've done such an incredible job with the previous projects, everything from Versace and the archival Margiela," he said. "But the approach had to be different for this one, both for me and for H&M. We started [to think] about what we could do to excite the consumer again. It was important for me not to just reintroduce things that I've done in the past but to have a new statement with what we were offering."

Wang has always been infatuated with how performance clothing is made, and H&M has the resources that allowed him to execute activewear in a way that was fashionable—but with the functionality to back it up. (Another plus, he mentioned, was that it was one of the few things H&M had never tried with their design collabs.) Wang also liked that the category wasn't discriminatory by price point. "It doesn't matter of you're a luxury customer or a mass customer. Everyone, at least that I know, works out, is always running around, and has a use for these clothes."

The idea behind the collection, he said, is "sports at night." Singer, looking amused, asked what exactly "sports at night" meant. Wang said liked the idea of sportswear so versatile that you can wear at night ("to sweat in the club," he said as he charmingly danced), but also to go to the gym and then out to dinner. "Things really do have to perform. It's not just fashion clothes that look good," he said. "You can have an idea of a silhouette, from an aesthetic point of view, but how you translate that into pieces that actually function is a completely different process."

Though the collection is much different than anything Wang's ever sent down his own runway, he did take elements from his past collections. You'll recognize the Freja boots, in particular, re-imagined in neoprene. And because he's known for selling cleverly designed everyday essentials, like mouse pads and ashtrays, for his "objects" collection, Wang wanted to introduce sports objects, too. In going with the theme of the collaboration, those objects are all fully functional. Those boxing gloves? You can pound a punching bag with them. That yoga mat? Not just an office decoration—it was made for vinyasas.

One person who certainly doesn't have time for yoga is Wang himself, who's juggling more jobs than anyone in the industry. Singer asked him how he managed to balance designing this collaboration with his namesake collection, his t-shirt line, and a little label called Balenciaga, to which he humbly shrugged, then credited his incredible team ("They're the magical workers behind the scenes," he said) and his cell phone, which he constantly uses to take notes and keep his thoughts in order.

When quizzed on why he decided to make his big announcement at Coachella, since the collection is, as Singer pointed out, far from festival fashion, Wang said, "There's so much energy. I've always loved music and I've always wanted to do something there. I thought, wouldn't it be great if we launched it at Coachella?" From there, Singer segued into the question on everyone's mind: What can we expect from Wang's big soiree tonight, which will take place at a brand-new track and field coliseum in Harlem and will mark the official launch of the campaign? "Get lots of rest today!" the designer ordered, but wouldn't offer any details.

The real fun started when Singer opened it up to an audience Q&A. One lady asked how often van den Bosch and Wang see each other, and whether they've gotten drunk together ("Not yet. Tonight!" Wang quipped.) Another asked whether she'll find anything to wear in collection, since she's not particularly athletic. Wang shot back with an emphatic "yes." "That's funny, because I don't do any sports either!" he said.

And then just before the end of the press conference, one journalist threw a curve ball, asking van den Bosch whether the designer collaborations actually make any money for H&M, or if "they're just written off as a marketing expense," to which the crowd nervously laughed. Van den Bosch curtly said she wouldn't comment on how much money the collaborations pull in, and with that the event wrapped.
· Alexander Wang x H&M: Lookbook's Here! [Racked]
· All Alexander Wang posts [Racked]
· All Collabs posts [Racked]