No one is asking “Wu, who?” Twenty-eight-year-old designer Jason Wu catapulted to fame two years ago when First Lady Michelle Obama wore his one-shoulder silk chiffon gown, studded with thousands of crystals, to the inaugural ball. Ever since then, the Taiwan-born designer has been on fashion’s fast track.
Wu was at Nordstrom Fashion Valley recently for a private luncheon to benefit the New Children’s Museum, and to introduce his Spring 2011 collection, inspired by vivid color and movement. In an interview with Ranch & Coast, Wu said “must have” pieces for spring include “bold color stripes, body conscious sheaths, high-waisted trousers, and bias cascade ruffle skirts.” There were lots of lean, elongated jackets and pants in the collection, along with artistic details such as hand-painted petals.
Wu’s artistry began when he was a five-year-old in Taiwan, where he would sketch wedding gowns in the windows of bridal shops. “As a child, I always knew I wanted to do something creative,” Wu recalls. “One of my first drawings was of a mermaid, and even at a young age, I was drawn to the feminine form.” As a teenager, he conceived and created Fashion Royalty, a line of high-fashion collectible dolls in couture-quality, minutely detailed clothes. Just four years ago, with money he had saved, Wu launched his life-sized label.
“Quality over quantity,” is how Wu describes his design philosophy. “The heart and soul of my designs lie in their fine craftsmanship and timeless quality.” He is also practical. “I feel that convertible dressing is very modern,” he says. “I love the idea of a girl who can go from work to dinner with only a change of shoes.” And fit is crucial. “A perfectly tailored dress,” says Wu, “never goes out of style.”
While Wu was on fashion’s radar well before the inauguration, it was Michelle Obama who made him instantly famous. Wu learned the First Lady had chosen his dress, like most of America, while watching TV. Last March, he met Mrs. Obama for the first time when she personally presented the frothy white gown to the Smithsonian, a tradition dating back to Helen Taft in 1921. “This gown is a masterpiece,” she told the assembled. “It is simple, it’s elegant, and it comes from this brilliant young mind, someone who is living the American dream.” Wu had not only made a stunning dress, he had made history.
“It was an extraordinarily emotional and monumental moment in my life,” Wu told Ranch & Coast. “I feel very grateful to be part of American history. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” ANDREA NAVERSEN