Alexander Wang is said to be considering bowing out of the Kering-controlled Balenciaga label now that the first three years of his contract are up. According to WWD, spokeswomen for Balenciaga and Alexander Wang confirmed only that there are discussions between the designer and Balenciaga regarding the renewal of the contract. While the luxury house has seen sales grown double-digits under Wang’s leadership, there is speculation that the U.S. designer is seeking investors and would rather focus on growing his namesake label rather than continue to work with Balenciaga.
With close to 20 stores worldwide, the Alexander Wang name saw its profile rise last year when it partnered with H&M on a well-received collaborative collection buoyed by a massive global marketing push. Since the November H&M launch, the label has launched denim, with the company’s president, Rodrigo Bazan, stating that the category was part of the company’s growth strategy, which also included rapid retail expansion. Said Bazan, according to WWD, “We’re going to have 21 stores by the end of this year and the more we grow, the more that we believe we have to have a lifestyle component in those stores.”
While Wang’s hesitation may be a negotiation tactic, it’s also possible that the 31-year old designer in surveying the landscape sees a bumpier road ahead for Balenciaga with the environment much less favorable than it once was for the luxury category now that bag and watch fever has died down. As well, economic growth has decelerated in the once booming luxury market in China, where the government has exacerbated issues by taking an active hand in discouraging purchasing of flashy labels.
Wang has no doubt kept his eye on developments at Marc Jacobs where the much-loved designer seemingly has lost a grip on his namesake label while helming the massive ship that is Louis Vuitton. Having finally stepped down two years ago to focus 100 percent on his label (of which LV has 80 percent ownership), the fashion world was shocked earlier this year when it was announced that the Marc by Marc Jacobs label would be shuttered. And though Louis Vuitton has spoken since 2013 of a desire to take Marc Jacobs public, with bag and luxury growth showing signs they are post-peak, it seems unlikely that will occur anytime soon.
Unlike Marc Jacobs, the Alexander Wang label is independent and yet, Jacobs’ issues with attempting to juggle his own U.S. brand and a storied European luxury label offer a cautionary tale with multiple parallels. All that said, given that presentations for Spring 2016 are just around the corner, there isn’t likely to be any announcement about Wang’s future with the label until after all the various fashion weeks are over.