FOR HIS NEW FRAGRANCE AT BALENCIAGA—A CAREER FIRST!—ALEXANDER WANG CHANNELS THE SIMPLICITY AND MAGNITUDE OF THE STORIED HOUSE AND ARRIVES AT SOMETHING ALTOGETHER FRESH
From V MAGAZINE V92, Winter 2014/15
PHOTOGRAPHY ALBERT WATSON
FASHION STELLA GREENSPAN
Four seasons into his high-stakes job at Balenciaga, Alexander Wang is only getting started. With his first collections respectfully looking to the archives of Cristóbal and expanding upon the futurism wrought by Nicolas Ghesquière before him, the young designer—the first American to take the helm of a French luxury brand in over a decade—has made sure-footed steps on his path to global success. Currently juggling the responsibilities of his own namesake line (and all of its assorted ranges, accessories, products, store openings, and collaborations), it’s no surprise he didn’t waste a moment when it came to creating a fragrance at his new post.
“Everything came at once,” Wang says, in between shooting with his discovery and muse, model Anna Ewers. “It helped in a way, because I kind of jumped into everything simultaneously.” Here, Wang and Ewers recall how a scent called B. came to be.
ALEXANDER WANG I’ve always had a deep interest and a desire to make a fragrance. It’s interesting that this was one of the first projects that was on the list of many things to do when I joined the house. I really had to think about and evaluate the heritage of Balenciaga’s iconic fragrances, and what the story would be for the next chapter. For me, fragrances are always something very personal and emotional.
ANNA EWERS It was my first fragrance campaign as well. It’s a big thing!
AW I’ve always considered Balenciaga and his designs to be very monolithic. There are references in the bottle design to the original salon and the tile floor, but I’m never really interested in things that are too straightforward or too first-degree. It has to be multifaceted and have many layers. But even when you evaluate something that’s not quite simple in its delivery, it has to be able to speak in much larger volumes. We wanted it to be timeless. I didn’t want to put a season to it.
V The campaign by Steven Klein reflects this as well, which is very bold and quite simple and classic.
AW There’s no one that photographs personalities better than Steven Klein, in my opinion. Anna was, of course, a model that was just entering her career, but I wanted to portray her in a very big, grand way, and to have her feel very iconic. There’s a mystery about her, and for anyone who hasn’t seen her face before, it’s an image of her unveiling herself…kind of a debut.
AE My first runway show was for Alex and it was amazing. I remember going to the casting for Balenciaga. I was so nervous. I drove to Paris just for him…I was not supposed to do fashion week! Then he picked me up, I don’t know where. He was like, “I want this girl.”
AW I think I found her picture on a blog. Then I sent it to Anita [Bitton], who we work with on casting, and I said, “Let’s find this girl!” Immediately I sort of fell in love with her, and the rest is history.
AE I was watching all of those stupid YouTube videos the day before the show, where the models are tripping on the runway [laughs]. I was super nervous, but it was such an honor to do it. My first big campaign was also Alexander Wang, and I opened the show. Then I shot the Balenciaga perfume campaign. All the important steps in my career have been with Alex.
V Alex, what is it that drew you to Anna?
AW You know how people always say, What is it that makes a great model? It’s that thing you can’t describe. Their job is to portray different characters, and I think she transcends the stereotypical. She has that energy that makes people want to be around her. She’s a star.
V How did you arrive at the final solution for the fragrance?
AW We started with the idea of lily of the valley. It’s very classic and has always been one of my favorite flowers. But I wanted to bring more of a warmth and masculinity to it, so there are these ideas of cashmere and woods, and I’ve always liked green scents as well because I like a clean and fresh cut. Of course, technically I’m not well-versed in how ingredients come together, and at one point [global beauty manufacturer] Coty brought me the idea of edamame!
AE I love it. I smelled it on set when I shot the campaign and it has something very feminine but also something masculine, so it really fits me as well.
AW It’s also something that develops as you wear it, so it appeals to everyone differently.
B. Balenciaga is available at sephora.com and specialty retailers nationwide