New York designer Jason Wu started his eponymous line just out of school in 2007 and burst onto the fashion stage in 2009, after dressing first lady Michelle Obamafor the presidential inauguration.
The young designer became a household name overnight. And since then, his line of polished but wearable pieces has become a favorite of Hollywood It girls. Now celebrating 10 years in the business, Wu sat down to chat about his work and a few new projects.This Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Tell us a few highlights from your first 10 years — and any ‘‘oh, no’’ moments?
A: Spring 2009. That was the the year that I got nominated for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and was one of the finalists. That was the collection where I really broke out and got noticed to all of the retailers. That was a really special moment.
I think that the first two years were really about learning the business, because I came straight out of school. I really didn’t know that much. I thought that I did, but I didn’t. It was a tumultuous two years. We had to learn everything. There were a lot of mistakes. I got an order from a store for my first collection, and I went to produce it and thought, ‘I don’t know how to make it in different sizes.’
Q: How has the fashion business changed in the past 10 years?
A: Completely. We are an industry that is about cycles, and the entire cycle has been disrupted. There are generally formulas. For example, this season, if something does well, next season, we are going to repeat it in a new update, a new color. That doesn’t work anymore. Now, every season is different. People are making their own choices.
Q: What is the story of the Jason Wu line? What are your hits?
A: It’s my vision of a very refined, sexy, sophisticated woman. I’ve always been interested in glamour, particularly the 1950s, because I thought that was the golden era of fashion. There’s kind of an art of perfection and dressiness that defines what Jason Wu is.
Q: When you started out, there were a lot of young designers on the scene — it really felt like a moment. Where is fashion right now?
A: Fashion is in transition, I think, as the world has changed so much, and fashion is trying to find its place. We are seeing younger people investing more in travel, home and food. It’s all much more lifestyle-driven.
Q: You launched Grey Jason Wu last year. On your site, you describe it as “feminine cool.” Tell us about Grey and who it’s for?
A: Well, about two years ago, I was looking through my friend Diane Kruger’s closet — she has a great closet— and I thought that I wasn’t dressing the casual side of the Jason Wu woman. I wanted to create a collection for the relaxed, off-duty, weekend side of Jason Wu.
I’ve always been portrayed as being very serious, but I’m not at all. I’m really casual. My aesthetic is not my own personality, and this was a way to show that.
Q: You became a part of a much bigger conversation when you dressed Michelle Obama in 2009. First lady Melania Trump has made several public appearances wearing non-American-designed clothes and has also done so for her official portrait. What are your thoughts on that?
A: I think its a personal choice. I think that Mrs. Obama chose to use fashion as a platform, and I’m not sure that’s the strategy of the new first lady.
Q: For a public figure, you seem to be a pretty low-key guy. That’s unusual in this age of selfie/self-promotion. How has that helped you?
A: It’s helped me to keep my eye on the prize — you know, my career and what I want to do.
Q: You launched your first fragrance this year. Clothes change each season, but a fragrance lasts. Knowing that, was deciding on the scent difficult?
A: No, it was a dream project. A project that I wanted to do from day one, but it took me 10 years to know myself enough to do it. I had to smell 200 raw ingredients, and there was one smell that just took me back. I smelled it again, and I remembered that it was jasmine. My neighbor in Taiwan had a wall of it that I would pick. That brought me back 25 years.