Alexander Wang is still young, but it’s been a little while since he was the golden child of the accessories market

For a while now, I’ve had a little note in one of my workplace housekeeping spreadsheets that says, “What’s the deal with Alex Wang?” It’s a question that I think about a lot and that I’ve written about in various ways over the past few years, but maybe above all else, it’s one I’m surprised to still be asking. Wang captivated the younger end of the bag market from approximately 2009 to 2013 with hits like the Donna, Brenda, Rocco and Rockie bags. In 2012, Wang was appointed creative director at Balenciaga, charting a course to industry dominance by appealing to young women shopping below a premium designer price point, which inspired scads of indie designers after him.

And then, by 2015, Wang was out at Balenciaga following a forgettable handful of seasons. I hoped he’d focus that newly unoccupied creative energy back on his eponymous label, and especially on the bags therein, which had understandably gotten a little stagnant while he built his vision at Balenciaga. I was hopeful when the Attica line debuted, with its grown-up finishes that still made plenty of room for Wang’s signature industrial, downtown glamour.

For whatever reason, though, the line didn’t quite stick, but I felt buoyed again when the Attica fanny pack started popping up left and right on models and celebrities. For months after it was a regular sight on stars, though, the bag was nowhere to be found online, even though it wasn’t a new design—it seemed as though the scale of fanny pack trend’s breakthrough had caught the brand by surprise. For seemingly the hundredth time in a row, a designer who used to have such a tight hold on the whims of youth culture was just a little bit off the mark.

I’m a big fan of Alexander Wang, the brand. I want it to succeed because it fits so well with my personal conception of how I want to dress—I’ve spent money on Wang’s designs on many occasions over the years, gone to his sample sales, and looked forward to his shows in hopes of seeing him finally find his groove once again. I’m rooting for him and his company.

I like the new Hook line, which just debuted for Pre-Fall 2018. Its signature hardware is really cool and modern, and it lends itself to a lot of different implementations on different bag shapes, which is essential for the long-term health of an accessories line in 2018. That little bag above costs nearly $800, though, and with a market that’s used to seeing Wang’s bags hit the sale rack and a whole host of new indie competitors working at a contemporary price point, I’m not sure that price point makes much sense for the brand anymore. If Alexander Wang wants to be the king of the cool kids’ handbag market once again, he’s going to have to adjust to the times. And I hope he does.

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