Never before have we seen such secrecy, as the fashion industry has been painstakingly tight-lipped about the long awaited launch of the ALEXANDER WANG X H&M collection. Upon the announcement about this designer collaboration for H&M, we predicted that Wang’s functional design aesthetic would be a prominent feature. However, the resulting collection exceeded our, and everyone else’s, expectations, presenting what could easily be counted as H&M’s best collaboration yet.
The collection by Wang highlights a new genre in fashion, performance wear, essentially capturing facets of everyday modern life. The pieces capture the speed of the city, mixing sports and performance, function and fashion. Versatility lies at the core of Wang’s design vision, and we see this in 38 exclusively designed garments for women. You can wear this collection on the street, at the gym and even at your next dinner party. For men, Wang’s collection creates an urban wardrobe that also shares in functionality and performance wear with 23 garments. Both collections include an accessories line, as well as a playful take on everyday objects.
Wang’s debut performance wear pieces include quick-dry black running tops and perforated laser-cut shorts, each bonded and branded with Alexander Wang in silver mesh. Seamless performance T-shirts, tank tops and crop tops are knitted in a pointelle pattern with a hidden tongue-in-cheek message that becomes visible when worn. Sports bras also feature the Alexander Wang logo on the back or on the wide bands of elastic, while compression crop tops, tights, dresses and bra tops play with logos of different scales. bazaar speaks to the designer himself, as well as H&M Creative Advisor Margareta Van Den Bosch about this incredible collaboration.
INTERVIEW WITH MARGARETA VAN DEN BOSCH
How did the collaboration with Alexander Wang happen?
I’ve been following the career of Alexander Wang for some time now, and have been so impressed with how he has built a global brand in such a short amount of time. He has defined the off-duty street style look that has become such a worldwide phenomenon over the past decade, and has always done so with such personality and a sense of humour. This is the tenth anniversary of our designer collaborations, and it’s so exciting to celebrate with our first American designer, and also our youngest ever collaborator, who’s created a collection that looks to the future of fashion.
You’ve worked with an impressive array of designers from Stella McCartney to Isabel Marant, how is Alexander Wang for H&M different from other collections?
Each collaboration is different, because the designers themselves are such individuals with their own style and point of view. The ALEXANDER WANG X H&M collection is particularly exciting because Alexander wanted to do something different, and has created for us a collection that is made up of pieces that are mostly new designs. It means that our customers will get the chance to buy exclusive pieces by Alexander Wang that will only be available in this one-off collaboration.
What do you love the most about Alexander Wang’s vision?
Alexander is a very clever designer, because he is always challenging himself to find new ways to work with garments that are familiar. For ALEXANDER WANG X H&M, he has given sportswear pieces a new life with his own cuts and details, making pieces that are instantly recognizable as by Alexander Wang. The collection is very urban and is full of attitude, but it also has lightness and humor, which makes the pieces very approachable and desirable.
What’s the purpose behind H&M’s collaborations with various emerging and high-end designers?
For me, our designer collaborations have always been a celebration of fashion. When we started with Karl Lagerfeld ten years ago, many people couldn’t understand why a couture designer would want to collaborate with a brand like H&M. But I think Karl understood how fashion was becoming a global conversation that went beyond the old boundaries. Now it’s natural for designers to collaborate with us, and to share their world with fashion lovers around the world who may not normally get to wear their designs.
How does H&M choose designers for these fantastic collaborations?
Each time, we want the collaboration to be something completely unexpected, and different from the season before. Fashion is such a diverse industry, that we have a wide variety of designers to approach. When we decide to collaborate with a designer it is because it is the right timing, both for the designer and us and we also believe that it is right for our customers. This year, 2014 is the perfect time to collaborate with Alexander Wang.
INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDER WANG
Did you ever see yourself designing a contemporary collection for H&M?
When H&M approached us and told us this would be their 10th anniversary of designer collaborations and that we would be the first American brand to join their roster, I was extremely honored and excited to take part. I’ve always been an admirer of H&M’s designer collaborations. It’s not just the products and their desirability, it’s also the way they communicate the collaborations, and stage the events. I’ve experienced some of these on a first hand basis, having attended the launches in New York for both Versace and Maison Martin Margiela.
This is the tenth year of their designer collaborations, and I’m the first American designer, so it feels special to be collaborating with them this year.
How did the idea behind the collaboration come about?
I really wanted to relook at the nature of their collaborations, and to do something different. H&M have done a great job with previous archive-based collaborations, but I wanted to design new pieces exclusively for the collection.
The ALEXANDER WANG X H&M is a collection based on performance wear that is directly linked to everyday wardrobe items. I’ve always been inspired and intrigued by the make and technology of sportswear and the advanced construction of performance clothing. They’re catering to the body in its most active state and the pieces really have to outlast and outperform. We utilized techniques such as bonding, welding and foam injection treatments in select items that feel innovative and modern. I didn’t want to just cater to one type of customer with this collaboration, so I chose a genre of clothing; no matter if you shop mass, or high luxury, it doesn’t discriminate by price.
Can you tell us more about designing a ‘versatile performance wardrobe’ for men and women? What prompted this design direction?
For me, functionality is also one aspect of style in a piece. Functional details, such as the rubberized zip or a particular grommet, can additionally be interesting. But I also Iove pieces like the welded parka where the absence of surface can also be interpreted as a design detail. There are also pieces where we make fashion from functionality, such as the elastic sports bra, or the cutaway scuba dress with interwoven straps.
What challenged you the most about creating this collection?
It’s been an absolute pleasure working with Margareta Van Den Bosch and the H&M team. She must be one of the most energetic and open-minded people and always open to pushing the boundaries. The biggest challenge was editing, because I wanted the ALEXANDER WANG X H&M collection to be made up of mostly new designs, based on performance and sportswear. I’ve always been inspired by performance and sportswear, particularly the make and manufacture, and the new technologies that are used. Technology and innovation in materials is what excites me, and with this performance-inspired collaboration we had a chance to explore so many innovative materials.
At the same time, I wanted the collection to be really tight and focused, so we concentrated on really specific pieces, such as the performance gym clothes, or the functional outerwear, to create the collection. We utilized techniques such as bonding, welding and foam injection treatments in select items that feel innovative and modern. I love how its functional details both keep the body warm while also having a really elevated aesthetic and quality, like with the seamless welded parka.
Do you have any favorite pieces from the collection? If so, can you tell us why?
While I don’t have a favorite piece, technically, I was most impressed by the foam-injected knits. And I love the Objects part of the collection; I like looking at everyday items and giving it a different context or treatment to add a different point of view. For ALEXANDER WANG X H&M, the objects complete the collection, as well as they add a new element to the H&M designer collaborations. There are pieces that are both practical and playful and humorous, like the yoga mat, or the boxing glove key rings.