High profile executives leaving Alexander Wang
The house has let go of Tanja Ruhnke, its highly experienced vice president of global branding and communications. Also departing is Souri Kim, Wang’s, vice president of press and retail marketing. To replace them, Wang has hired just one person, consultant Anjali Lewis to “provide leadership to our marketing and communications team,” according to a statement from the company. Lewis, who has a consulting firm called The Curious Bird, was a long-time communications staffer at Donna Karan.
The news will come as a considerable surprise – given the sterling reputation of Ruhnke, who joined Wang in November 2012. After graduating from FIT, she worked for America’s most reputable fashion publicist KCD for four years before going on to join Helmut Lang. She become the director of communications of Lang when he was the single most watched designer in fashion in the first five years of this century. After Lang sold out to Prada, Ruhnke moved to Paris as vice president of KCD handling clients like Marc Jacobs, Thierry Mugler and Bottega Veneta. Born in Germany, she also speaks fluent English and French.
Reached by telephone, Ruhnke confirmed she was no longer with Wang and planning a relaxing break, but declined any further comment.
Kim, who joined Wang in April 2016 from Moda Operandi, has also an excellent CV, having previously spent seven years as Senior Publicity Director of KCD, and six as a fashion editor at now defunct, but once admired, men’s fashion title Details.
It is understood that their relationships with Wang had been under strain for some time, in part due to Wang’s insistence that Ruhnke’s department spend much of their time finding sponsors to finance the designer’s extravagant shows, rather than working directly with senior editors and social media.
As a business model, Wang has been since its birth in 2005, a company heavily reliant on sponsorship. Famous for producing grandiose runway shows on giant piers on the Hudson River followed by boozy after parties for thousands of fans, Wang has used a plethora of sponsors over the past years, including Lexus, Nars, Evian, BMW China, Beats by Dr. Dre, Samsung and Amex.
Wang executives have reportedly been meeting with potential outside investors in the house since last year. Fueling speculation that the departure of two well paid executives might, in part, be to blacken the bottom line as much as possible for an interested bidder. Last June, Wang made himself CEO and chairman of his own house, replacing Rodrigo Bazan who left for Thom Browne. On top of that, Wang hired Mary Wang – no relation – another ex Donna Karan exec to become executive vice president.
Wang currently retails in some 700 retail stores worldwide and boasts flagships in Hong Kong, London and New York. Moreover, his adidas Originals by Alexander Wang collection has apparently been selling briskly ever since its launch at a See Now Buy Now runway show in Manhattan last September, and a series of drops, including via trucks in New York.
However, Wang’s fashion credibility did take a bashing when his contract at Balenciaga was not renewed in 2015, most critics viewing him as not having sufficient design chops to helm a Paris couture house. The overwhelming acclaim garnered by the shows of his successor Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga have further reinforced that opinion.
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