When Alexander Wang was appointed artistic director at Balenciaga one year ago, the brand had just lost its New York boutique (in far West Chelsea) to the floodwaters of Sandy. This week, on November 22, Wang opens a new Balenciaga flagship on Mercer Street in Soho—the first in what will be a global overhaul of all Balenciaga stores. It’s a great, big, glamorous place, all deep-green marble (the color of overripe late-summer trees) and soaring skylights, and it feels simultaneously like Wang (he designed it in collaboration with Ryan Korban, who worked on Wang’s eponymous store, too) and the grand old house of Balenciaga. Wang is working with the brand’s traditional shapes—cocoon coats, bracelet sleeves—and adding his own sporty, streetwear energy, so the store bears the qualities of being at once rooted and new. He says of his design ethos, whether it applies to clothing or to spaces, “My question is always, ‘Does it need this?’, which results in a certain austerity that I like.”
*This article originally appeared in the November 25, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.
After exploring different materials, Wang and Korban settled on Verde Rameggiato marble, and 5,400 square feet of it has been installed by marble workers flown in from Italy.
The traditional Soho façade is protected by landmarks; the front door of the women’s boutique lines up directly with the front door of the new men’s shop on the other side of Mercer. “I wanted to bring a sense of permanence to the space,” says Wang. “I wanted it to feel like it has been there for decades.”
“This color green was the very first thing I thought of when I started thinking about the store. It’s regal and aristocratic but also not so obvious.” Shelves are a rich green similar to the marble, but covered in soft suede. The polished limestone-and-marble floor was designed in homage to the historical couture salon under Cristóbal Balenciaga on the Avenue George V in Paris. Wang made it his own with the addition of polished-chrome cabochons.The Unveiling of Alexander Wang’s Balenciaga