02/09/2013 09:27 EST | Updated 04/11/2013 05:12 EDT

Alexander Wang elevates his own collection before focusing on Balenciaga

NEW YORK, N.Y. - With buzz and anticipation building for his debut collection for Balenciaga, Alexander Wang used his New York Fashion Week show on Saturday to make the statement that his signature line is still very much on his mind.

The collection of finely tailored pieces in luxe and lush textured fabrics seemed elevated from the more casual and funky styles he's turned out the past few seasons, although there was the sportswear twist he is best known for woven into every look. It was a sophisticated turn — and trick — to pull off.

The song "Eye of the Tiger" of "Rocky 3" fame was the underlying theme music as the models stepped onto the runway in the lobby of the ornate Cunard Building at the southern tip of Manhattan. (It was a drastic change in vibe from the airplane-hanger feel of the pier he had shown in for years that now is hosting the Westminster Dog Show.)

The catwalkers wore fur boxing gloves and hoods, with an opening for their ponytails, wrapped tightly around their heads, and fuzzy footwear. Sweatshirt-style tops were made of mohair with a touch of metallic, and fur had a burnout effect. He said he "disguised" some of the richest fabrics by brushing them, re-embroidering them and mixing them to make them modern.

He also updated menswear-inspired suiting — not once but twice — adding slits on the shoulders and zipper hardware on a satin tuxedo, and slashing the sleeves and opening the neck on a coatdress. The palette was almost entirely grey and black; ink blue had a strong, supporting role.

"There was a little more opulence. I had in mind the great couturiers of the '30s, '40s, '50s, but interpreted in T-shirts and sweats — that's me. It's sportswear, it's what I wear and what I do," Wang said in a post-show interview.

Soon, he'll jet off to Paris for fashion week there in early March. Wang replaces Nicolas Ghesquiere as designer of the storied house of Balenciaga.

"Tomorrow I'll change my focus, but I want to remember this collection for at least a night," Wang said.


Samantha Critchell tweets fashion at (at)AP_Fashion and can be reached at (at)Sam_Critchell