Tony Wang is bringing a new kind of business casual to the Wharton classroom — one that incorporates super skinny ties and waiter vests. This month’s Seventeen magazine says Wang, a Wharton sophomore, knows how to “combine business with fashion.”
His successful fashion blog and clothing line are somewhat of a novelty. He became interested in fashion on a trip to New York his junior year of high school. It was during a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art that “an idea hit [him] that it would be really cool to design clothing,” he said.
Wang’s original line is inspired by what he observed at the Met and other museums, particularly roots and waves. This is an “original motif that you don’t see in fashion,” he said. “It’s aesthetically pleasing and you don’t see it in clothing — it’s a move from this sector of art to this sector of art.”
These themes evidence themselves in his hand-crafted ties, on which “waves spray up against the tie,” Wang said. These ties also incorporate a “blocky feeling, which breaks up the pattern and gives it an edgier feel,” he added.
Wang, who interned at Google over the summer — an experience he said was “the most fun [he] ever had” — is not sure if fashion will be his ultimate career. “My parents have been ambivalent,” he said. “They want me to be an I-banker.”
Still, he said they are supportive, though they often remind him fashion is a tough business to break into.
His Finance, OPIM and Entrepreneurship clusters are leaving him the option to go into finance, a field he hopes to explore because “it’s unfair to love it or hate it without trying it.”
But this does not mean that his fashion endeavors are left by the wayside. Wang’s blog, the3st.com, has been “fast-growing,” and has received much attention from the media. The blog’s college-age writers come from all over the country, and Google Analytics has shown that his readers are in the 18-35 age range.
The 13 contributors to the blog comment on fashion news from lip gloss containing a “discreet date rape drug testing kit” to reviews of fashion shows and interviews with designers.
The blog has brought the media to Wang’s doorsteps. It was covered by Seventeen magazine and he has recently received a call from Harriet Sternberg, executive producer of America’s Next Best Dance Crew and an e-mail from William Baer, senior vice president of HR at Bloomingdale’s, both of whom are interested in his work.
Now, Wang’s fashion line is getting attention too. His first trunk show will be held on Nov. 21, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Matthew Izzo, on 151 North 3rd Street. The clothing will be sold at a 15-percent discount and Penn students will be modeling the styles.
Despite all of this attention, Wang doesn’t forget that he is still a student. His three roommates in Rodin College House, all also in Wharton, do not talk with him about his fashion involvement. He is busy with his Wharton course load, and he said he is considering taking art classes at Penn so he can bring more “structure” to his work. Wang is a keen observer of trends at Penn and has come to several conclusions regarding what his classmates are wearing. For example, he said he believes that girls should “be careful” when wearing leggings because “people see more than you think they see.”
For guys, he says On-Campus Recruiting time does not have to mean a loose shirt and ill-fitting sports jacket. “Business formal or business informal does not have to be boring,” he said.
“I have my own form, called business fabulous, [which incorporates] ways to bring attention to yourself.”
According to Wang, accents such as skinny ties, fitted shirts and waiter vests add a “youthful edge and highlights the kind of person you are.”
The designer aims to bring capes back in style for men. An ideal Tony Wang men’s outfit for a man would be “an Edwardian cape meets futuristic business.” For women, he’d like to create a dress “that is playing off the idea of black mixed with another color.” He’d also like to play with murals of waves and roots on dresses.
“People might think it’s gaudy,” Wang added, “but some fashion is meant to be art — it has to be interesting. It doesn’t have to be beautiful.”
And Wang is definitely meeting with a lot of success this year. Fashion may be a risky business, but that does not seem to be stopping this Penn-student-meets-haute-couture. “I think I’m going to go for it and see how far it takes me,” he said.