- Associated Press - Monday, December 3, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - Young downtown designer Alexander Wang is taking over the creative direction of storied Paris fashion label Balenciaga, likely bringing his cool-girl, sporty look to a house made famous by its founder for graceful, fluid lines.

The company made the announcement on Monday that 28-year-old Wang would fill the spot vacated last month by Nicolas Ghesquiere, who left after a 15-year run there.

Wang’s “proven talent, modernity and individual and cosmopolitan vision of design will naturally embrace and enrich the unique heritage of this fashion house,” said Isabelle Guichot, president and CEO of Balenciaga, said in a statement.

Wang comes with credibility: His seasonal runway shows are considered bellwethers of fast-fashion trends, and he has won Council of Fashion Designers of America awards in womenswear and accessory design.

Wang will oversee those categories as well as menswear, and he’ll help craft Balenciaga’s overall image.

“I am deeply honored to embark on this new role for a brand and house that I have such great admiration and respect for,” Wang said.

Still, he’ll likely bring a different _ and maybe more casual _ sensibility to a company founded by Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga, a contemporary of Coco Chanel and Christian Dior. The brand was founded in 1919, but Balenciaga started making real waves in fashion with its first Paris collections in 1937.

Balenciaga died in 1972, and the house didn’t fully regain its footing until Ghesquiere took over in 1997 and brought critical acclaim along with pop-star fans such as Beyonce and Rihanna.

Wang has a similar celebrity appeal, and he’s a favorite with fashion editors and the models. At his show last February, for example, he staged a catwalk comeback for the likes of Gisele Bundchen, Carmen Kass and Shalom Harlow.

Wang will continue his New York-based signature collection.

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