Young designer intends to wow the world next.
Jason Wu has already dressed the wife of the most powerful man on earth – creating the stunning, inauguration ball gown for US First Lady Michelle Obama – and for his collection last fall he sought inspiration from a formidable ruler from yesteryear, the French king Louis XIV.
The Jason Wu brand is now firmly established, with a presence in more than 140 stores worldwide, including high-end outlets in China.
In between designing two Jason Wu collections, the most recent one hitting the catwalks of New York Fashion Week earlier this month, the sudden celebrity has been whizzing around the globe, including regular promotional trips to Hong Kong and Beijing.
He also has a guest slot on the CCTV design-talent television show Creative Sky.
A year ago, Wu, 28, was soaking up the flavor of the Paris, which provided the main inspiration for his collection last season.
A restoration project to bring Versailles, the palace of the Sun King, Louis XIV, back to its former glory, documented in the photo book, Parcours Museologique Revisite, captured his imagination.
“I loved the idea of a grandiose project under construction, that mixture of the ornate, the precious and the raw,” says Wu of his line that’s still in retail stores. “I love the idea of taking things apart and putting them back together and restoring something. There is always a bit of creative interpretation, as you can’t put things back exactly the same way.
“We had 15 different kinds of lace. I would take it apart and reassemble it like a puzzle so it looks completely different. It is an expensive exercise, but a lot of fun.”
Wu has become elevated to the ranks of fashion royalty himself, with a name that has become a byword for sophisticated style. He continues to get a helpful promotional ride from Michelle Obama: the president’s wife was pictured wearing a Wu coat when meeting Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace and a favorite purple dress while posing for the cover of American Vogue.
Wu’s boyish looks, and preference for dressing in basketball sneakers, give him the appearance of a college kid. But looks can be deceptive: beneath the casual-looking facade are keen entrepreneurial instincts and a fast-working business brain.
“I have wanted to be a designer since I was 10, so unlike most Asian parents mine were not shocked, they were well prepared for a long time. I made a pact with them whereby if I went to boarding school and did my schooling I could do whatever I wanted in college.”
Wu is quick to credit the 20 people working at Jason Wu Studios, who have to follow a punishing schedule.
Fashion houses such as this produce a minimum of two collections a year – spring-summer and autumn-winter – in addition to beach-style garments and accessories such as bags, shoes and spectacles.
For now, Wu is concentrating on building up the brand so it has real international cachet alongside names such as Giorgio Armani, , Yves Saint Laurent and the first-ever superstar designer, Coco Chanel.
“I think the world is our oyster, there is an infinite number of things that we can do,” he says. “We will be launching e-commerce this year, it has not been right for us before. We want to develop into a lifestyle brand.
“I get the best of both worlds, as I am from both a Chinese and Western background, it gives my sensibility a broader range. I think there is a huge future for us on the Chinese mainland; we have already been in Taiwan, done a lot of work there.”