The designer, who left his post as creative director of Balenciaga in 2015 to focus on his namesake brand, is adding the roles of chief executive and chairman to his official list of responsibilities. He will be replacing current chief executive Aimie Wang (his sister-in-law) and chairwoman Ying Wang (his mother), while continuing as creative director. Both family members, who founded the company with its eponymous designer in 2005, will remain board members and shareholders, while Dennis Wang, the designer’s brother, will continue as an adviser, the company announced today.
“The business side has always come naturally to me, and with my full-time return to New York, I want to focus on my brand’s strategic growth,” the designer said in a statement. “Now is the right time to fully synchronise the creative and business aspects of the company and to continue strengthening the dialogue we have with our customers. It has always been my goal to create brand value, and to be a brand with integrity and purpose.”
The designer also thanked his mother and sister-in-law for their 11 years of service. “I want to thank my family, Ying and Aimie for their tireless efforts toward building the business we have today,” he said. “In an environment of rapid technological and industry changes, strong leadership and increased flexibility are required to meet the needs of the market.”
To help achieve this, Caroline Wang, the designer’s aunt, will join the company as executive vice chairman from IBM, where she was vice president of marketing, information technology and business transformation in the Asia Pacific region. “We are aligning our leadership structure to continue building our business processes, becoming more efficient, and strategically laying the groundwork for future growth,” she said.
Mary Wang (of no family relation) has been appointed executive vice president, after spending 20 years at Donna Karan where she was most recently president of the DKNY brand. She will oversee global operations, reporting directly to the designer.
The moves are a clear step in a new direction for the brand. In May 2016, Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen alum Rodrigo Bazan stepped down as president of Alexander Wang to join Thom Browne as chief executive officer, making room for changes to the organisation structure. Bazan joined Wang in 2010, helping it to reach $100 million in revenue by 2013. But the ways of the industry have changed dramatically in the decade that Wang has been in operation, forcing wholesale-driven brands to rethink their strategies.
The news also comes at a time when more and more creatives are stepping into business roles. In October 2013, Christopher Bailey was named chief executive of Burberry, replacing Angela Ahrendts, who was recruited by Apple. More recently, Rag & Bone named founder Marcus Wainwright sole chief executive, moving him from a predominantly creative role to one that encompasses both creative and business duties.
The strategy in these circumstances has been to surround designer-cum-CEOs with those who have specific business expertise in operations, finance and investor relations. Bailey is backed by chief operating officer John Smith — who recently announced he would be stepping down — as well as several other c-suite executives, while Wainwright has the support of his c-suite team, as well as partner Andrew Rosen and his former co-ceo David Neville, who remains a board member and shareholder.
Indeed, the longstanding formula of creatives finding their perfect business matches — such as Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole or Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy — seems to be falling out of fashion. Whether this new strategy works as well remains to be seen.