A Conversation With… Jason Wu

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Since launching his label in 2006, Taiwan-born designer Jason Wu has garnered an impressive following among young Hollywood – and America’s First Lady alike. We interview him about his meteoric rise to success, and that top-secret stint as designer for Michelle Obama’s inaugural gown.

Though you are a young designer, and you have only been presenting collections since 2006, you have met with much critical success. What do you credit for this success?

I credit a lot of hard work, dedication, and a sincere interest in the art of fashion design. I am committed to designing beautifully crafted, modern clothes that stand the test of time and of course, compliment a woman’s body. The combination of these elements is what makes the Jason Wu label successful.

How does being Taiwanese play into your design inspiration, and affect your work ethics?

While I have not used much literal interpretation from my Asian culture, I believe my background has helped foster my design sensibility. I grew up in a family of hard-working people with great work ethic, and I think having that same work ethic has been a key point in the success of my company.

What was the influence for your latest collection?

For Fall 2011, I was inspired by beautiful photographs taken by Robert Polidori, as documented in his book “Parcours Museologique Revisite”, which depicts the restoration process of the Versailles over a period of 25 years. I found the idea so interesting because it was about the interaction between the raw elements and the lush decor. The idea of taking things apart and putting them back together really intrigued me.

Tell us about your favorite design from the next collection and what makes it so special.

It is so hard to pick a favorite. I think all my designs have special details and embellishments that make them unique. For fall, I wanted to explore the concept of raw opulence, so I created an ivory silk Radzmire sculpted dress with intricate lace embroidery. I worked with deconstructed lace and pieced it back together to create my own vision.

What has been the proudest moment of your career to date?

There is no doubt that designing the First Lady’s Inaugural gown has been the single greatest professional and personal accomplishment in my life. It is still hard to believe that something I made is now at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Do you believe collaborations are a necessary extension of working in fashion nowadays?

I do enjoy working with creative individuals, sharing a vision, and collaborating on projects. I am fortunate to have worked with so many talented designers on everything from jewelry to hats. In the past, I have collaborated with Philip Crangi, Aurelie Bidermann, Stephen Jones, and Alexis Bittar. I look forward to more interesting collaborations.

"My mother once told me that you should never stop learning. That’s advice that I think everyone can take to heart."

If money, time and space were no object, what kind of epic runway show would you put on? What elements would you include, given the limitless horizons of imagination?

I would love to do a show at the MET and use all the grand elements in the museum as the backdrop to a spectacular show.

You just launched a new website with the ability to shop your collections online. Tell our readers more about this undertaking, and what they can expect from the new website.

We just launched an e-commerce site and are offering an assortment of the handbag collection. I will continue to offer exclusive styles through my website and hope to grow the business steadily and have more of a direct dialogue with my customers. I am looking forward to designing some other items, such as small leather goods, that will be introduced online soon.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

My mother once told me that you should never stop learning. That’s advice that I think everyone can take to heart.

What is your favorite thing to do during your free time?

I really love to cook. If I hadn’t become a fashion designer, I probably would have been a chef instead.

Photos: Courtesy of GETTY IMAGES

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