B. Balenciaga: Alexander Wang unveils his first fragrance for the brand

Photography: Wang by Steven Klein, Bottle by Carlo Mendoza, Vintage runway by Gordon Parks/Getty, Lily of the Valley and Edamame by iStock

See the elements that inspired B. Balenciaga »

In the summer of 2012, style icon Vanessa Traina was clutching a bouquet of lily of the valley as she exchanged vows with Maxwell Snow in her mother’s (author Danielle Steel) home in San Francisco. Seated close by was her former high-school classmate Alexander Wang, whose relationship with Traina has blossomed into designer and muse.

So when perfumer Domitille Bertier proposed lily of the valley for Balenciaga’s newest scent, B. (pronounced b-dot), the decision was a no-brainer. “It’s always been one of my favourite flowers,” explains Wang, who was named creative director of the house the same year that Traina was married. “And that it was Vanessa’s flower at her wedding added a lot of meaning.”

We are speaking across a modular white picnic table in Balenciaga’s NYC headquarters just after Wang’s Resort 2015 show. The collection has an ultra-modern sailing vibe: fisherman coats with chiffon trapped between layers of PVC, calfskin galoshes with python-wrapped soles and a bubbly plexi minaudière connected to a corded suede net bag as if it were some haute catch of the day. Fluid crepe tops and dresses are skewed to one side, creating “tails” with a fluttering boat sail effect.

“It was this idea of fabric falling off the body,” Wang explains, “almost coming undone—unveiling.”

That notion worked its way into the scent, most visibly in the ad campaign, in which model Anna Ewers gazes through black tulle in an image styled by Traina. But there is the idea of something hidden in the scent too, with its underbelly of cashmeran woods and iris root drifting up through super-feminine florals. Creating B. was a steep learning curve for the designer, whose career exploded the instant he expanded beyond his first few collections of knitwear. All along, he’s aimed to be a people pleaser. “I want to understand what stores are being sold to, what magazines we’re working with and who we want to address,” he says.

It’s all summed up in his declaration, “I want to design clothes that girls want to wear.” Now, with B., he can add, “I want to create scents that girls want to sniff.”

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