Designer Jason Wu is making the most of his time on the world’s stage — including coming to a Target near you.In 2009, then 26-year-old fashion designer Jason Wu was a relative unknown. That all changed when he catapulted to fame after America’s newly minted first lady, Michelle Obama, wore his dress to the inaugural balls. The next day, images of her one-shouldered, Swarovski-lace ivory gown were splashed across newspapers around the world. His design was a long shot — eclipsing other heavy hitters in fashion such as Chanel, Michael Kors and Diane von Furstenberg. In fact, he didn’t find out that Mrs. Obama was wearing his dress until he saw it with the rest of the country on television.
After being given the proverbial “golden ticket,” though, Wu was not content to just bask in the glow of his past accomplishments. Fast-forward to the present to find that some of the most glamorous women in the world have become fans of his work, including Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman and Diane Kruger. Now, with the February launch of his limited-edition collection of women’s wear and accessories for retail giant Target, the 29-year-old Taiwan-born designer is primed to turn his name into a fashion empire.
American Way: What are your big plans for 2012?
Jason Wu: Expanding my collection — we’re launching small leather goods and adding more to my e-commerce website. And, we’ve got some exciting collaborations [with Target].
AW: Any New Year’s resolutions we should know about?
JW: To always stay fit, which is difficult because I love food so much, and to see my friends more.
AW: What are some of your holiday traditions?
JW: Being a New Yorker, I love to travel during the holidays. It’s also the only time of the year when I can leave the city. This year, I went to Punta Mita, Mexico, and stayed at the St. Regis there.
Getting to Know Jason Wu
Right now he’s reading: Just Kids by Patti Smith
The one thing he would never travel without: iPhone 4S
Designer who has influenced him the most: Charles James
Color obsession of the moment: Fuchsia
On repeat on his iPod: “Grenade” by Bruno Mars
Favorite person to dress: His mom, Jennifer
Luggage: Tumi, because it’s so sturdy
Go-to restaurant: Annisa in New York
Drink of choice: A classic Champagne cocktail
Vacation spot: Tokyo
AW: What are your favorite looks for women?
JW: Right now I really love a little bit of a tomboy toughness in a woman’s look, something like a little tuxedo.
AW: If you had to describe your design aesthetic in three words, what would they be?
JW: Feminine, timeless and sophisticated.
AW: How have things changed for you since first lady Michelle Obama wore your gown for the inauguration?
JW: Well, to have that kind of international recognition was tremendous. In the three years since, I’ve worked really hard to grow my business and get better as a designer, to really keep moving forward and use all of the exposure to grow my little business into something bigger.
AW: Are you in touch with Michelle Obama’s people regularly?
JW: Yes, absolutely.
AW: What is your favorite fashion rule to break?
JW: Shoes and handbags never have to match. In fact, I encourage not matching them.
AW: What do you think is the biggest fashion faux pas?
JW: Taking a trend too literally.
AW: Can you recall a specific moment when you knew you were going to be a designer for a living?
JW: I think I was 16, in high school. Though I’d thought about it before, it just came to me and I just wanted to design, and I never changed my mind.
Our Five Favorite Wu Dresses (So Far)
Diane Kruger at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, 2010
Reese Witherspoon at the Avon Foundation for Women Gala, 2010
Zoe Saldana at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, 2010
Diane Kruger at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala, 2011
Rachel Weisz at the Toronto Film Festival premiere of The Deep Blue Sea, 2011
Learn more about Jason Wu’s line at www.jasonwustudio.com