Growing up in San Francisco in the late 1990s, the soundtrack to Alexander Wang’s formative years consisted of rap and R&B. Back then, the fashion pioneer couldn’t have predicted that some of the same rappers he so admired would later be championing and name-checking his distinctive, lo-fi luxe clothes on their anthemic tracks.
When he started showing his eponymous line in New York in 2006, newly graduated from Parsons School of Design, Wang’s creations instantly became synonymous with a certain kind of downtown cool, epitomised by the leather-pants-clad off-duty models who wore his clothes with an ease that made them all the more desirable. Since then, he’s become a fixture of the city's style scene, drawing from its laden soundscape and counterculture to inform his creations, which evolve harmoniously with it.
“A lot of people would be very surprised to know that I don't actually listen to music at all at work,” he confides. “When we work it’s a very quiet design studio.” So, Wang indulges his passion for music after hours, whether that’s staying up late to seek out new music online, or feeding his current Ariana Grande obsession in a club (“Whether you like her music or not, no one can say she is not a talented vocalist and I have really enjoyed watching her mature into the artist she is today”), or dropping by shows to see friends like Diplo or Abel Tesfaye of The Weeknd perform live. “When I was starting out, there was more of a rock 'n' roll vibe dominating the airwaves. Obviously, in the music industry different artists come and go, and it changes.”
It’s interesting to see how those changes have played out in the ten years since Wang launched his label, and to consider the role that he may have had in fuelling those changes. Take his after-show parties, for example, which remain a highlight of the New York Fashion Week calendar – such as the one that launched his 2014 collaboration with global retailer H&M, in which hip-hop star Missy Elliot made her long-overdue comeback. "We like to work with a good variety of DJs. There’s nothing too predictable [about the music] – you don’t know what’s coming and that’s always the secret to having a good party," he says. "I usually like to keep the music energy up until 1am, which is when we’ll have a performance. Then at 2am, people are really having a good time – that’s when you go back, with a few more throwback hits. Then you hit them with the second performance at 2.30am, and then everyone’s waiting around to see what’s gonna happen next..."
Now, tapping into that same party mentality, Wang has teamed up with Apple Music to celebrate the launch of their brand new fashion channel, creating bespoke playlists and a dynamic video which depicts Wang setting up an event to remember [see below].
As for those shout-outs from Kanye West and company? These days he simply laughs it off. “These are artists I obviously have tremendous respect for, [so] it was really exciting. But I kind of get embarrassed lately, if I’m out and that song comes on, I always want to hide! The DJ will see you and will purposefully play the song and I’m like, oh God, this is so embarrassing, I want to dig myself into a hole right now! But it’s a huge honour, it’s very flattering.”
Below, Wang shares his five favourite tracks exclusively for AnOther, in addition to one of his personalised Apple Music playlists.
1: Cupid by 112
"Growing up in the Bay Area, in San Francisco, hip-hop was such a huge influence for me. I loved so much old school hip-hop, Pharcyde, Bad Boy, a lot of R&B. My high school was very alternative: it was in the middle of San Francisco, so there wasn’t a gymnasium, we didn’t have sports, we didn’t have a cafeteria. So we grew up in the middle of a very urban city, and it was very untraditional in a sense. Cupid by 112 was a defining song of that time. That was always something we would hear at school dances, so it was always stuck in my head."
2: Rock the boat by Aaliyah
"Aaliyah is always something. Rock the Boat, One in a Million: those songs are classics for me and I always go back to them. Even if I play [Rock the Boat] at a party now, it still feels just as exciting. It’s one of those songs that people can still get really excited to hear. She was an amazing artist."
3: Juicy by The Notorious B.I.G.
"It's a total classic – whether played at home alone with friends pre-gaming or at 3am at a club in-between dance tracks."
5: Lollipop by Lil Wayne
"We’ve been very fortunate in terms of working with incredible DJs and performers and artists. Every season has a different vibe to the party, some kind of theme or energy, but who we collaborate with is always very important to keeping the energy up. Last September [at the Alexander Wang 10th anniversary party] we had Ludacris and Lil Wayne performing – they really made that special for us."
This article was created in collaboration with Apple Music.