February 28, 2009
Gene Marshall Dolls - Jason Wu
Wu wears his sudden fame with humility
By Christopher Muther, Globe Staff | February 19, 2009
NEW YORK - Perhaps it was just a coincidence that designer Jason Wu took inspiration from antique illustrations of fairy tales for his latest collection, or maybe it was actually a case of fashion echoing life.
Wu, the 26-year-old wunderkind whose fall/winter 2009 collection received across-the-board-praise from the style world here at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, has been living something of a fairy tale himself recently. It was only last month that Michelle Obama, the woman who could be seen as Wu's fashion fairy godmother, chose to wear one of his gowns to the inaugural balls. Suddenly, Wu went from up-and-comer to household name.
"She's given me more than I could have dreamed of," Wu said Saturday afternoon in his midtown studio. "It's pretty amazing that somebody would have given me that opportunity."
Opportunity struck twice when Obama then posed on the March cover of Vogue wearing another of Wu's dresses. For a young designer in a shaky economic climate, the first lady's endorsement has led to an explosion of media coverage, not to mention offers for everything from reality television shows to low-priced clothing lines. Buyers are lining up to talk to Wu about selling his clothes in their stores. (Wu's clothing can be found at Louis Boston).
But despite the fact that Wu looks like he's barely out of high school, he's remarkably mature about his newfound fame. He's eschewing the TV offers and various get-rich-quick schemes and continuing to focus on what's important to him: making fashion for working women. He sees his customer as a woman who works, heads out for cocktails, and then to a sophisticated dinner.
"I think we're all looking forward to seeing were Jason Wu's career takes him," said Hamish Bowles, Vogue's European editor at large. "He's done an incredible amount already, and his work is mature beyond his years."
Wu got his start in fashion early. As a boy, he started sketching women's clothes. He says he has always been fascinated with fashion.
"Before I knew what a fashion career was, I wanted to be a fashion designer," says Wu, dressed casually in a charcoal gray sweater, jeans, and sneakers. "I love the way that clothes are made, I love the way that clothes are constructed. I love pretty things. Fashion encompasses all the things I love - like sculpture and art. I guess it was in my DNA."
Born in Taiwan, Wu and his family settled in Vancouver. He attended Eaglebrook School in Deerfield for middle school, and then went to boarding school at Loomis Chaffee in Connecticut. During those years, he would occasionally sneak to Boston with friends and stroll Newbury Street for fashion inspiration.
It was during high school that Wu started his first job in the fashion industry - designing clothes for a line of high-end dolls.
"The one thing with the dolls is that it heightened my awareness of details, because once you've worked in miniature, that's all it is is little details," he says. "I was clipping little threads off all the time. As a result of that, attention to detail is an important quality for us.
"But dolls weren't my goal. I loved doing it because it was fun, but meanwhile I was always working toward becoming a fashion designer and going to Parsons."
His self-funded label (with help from his parents and earnings from his work with dolls) began in 2006, and since that time he has earned the close support of editors at Vogue, who came backstage after his runway show last week to congratulate him.
Despite rumors that she may be attending Wu's fashion show, Obama was not in the audience, and Wu has yet to speak with her. However, he did promptly send a letter after she wore the now-famous white, one shoulder gown.
"I've always been a note person, so I wrote her a thank you," he says. "I really don't know what I can do for someone who has done so much for me. How could I reciprocate in the same way?"
Wu says he's aware that not everybody liked the dress, but most important to him is the fact that Obama liked it.
"One thing that people need to know is that it's about the clothes for her," he says. "She's not caught up in the designer world and she's not about big names. She wears clothes that she likes. I think that's what's great about her. She has her own rules."
The fact that he designs his clothes for women, and not Hollywood party girls, has helped Wu find a strong and devoted customer base very early in his career. He is now looking at expanding into fragrance and cosmetics. He's even mulling expanding into menswear one day. But he has no plans to start a lower priced line or enter into a collaboration for a one-off collection with Target or H&M.
"I've had a crazy number of offers to work on other projects," he says. "But this is really the focus for me. I've never had a secondary goal. I want to put all of my energy toward making the kind of clothes that women see on the runway and want to reach out, touch, and wear."
Christopher Muther can be reached at email@example.com
Posted by fashiondoll at February 28, 2009 12:50 AM