HOW TO WU A WOMAN

Fashion Quarterly - - Profile -

New York de­signer Ja­son Wu speaks to Phoebe Watt about his 10 years in the biz, and how he segued from cou­ture to ca­sual with

the launch of ‘sib­ling la­bel’ Grey Ja­son Wu

EAR­LIER THIS YEAR, YOU CEL­E­BRATED 10 YEARS IN BUSI­NESS. HOW HAS THE FASH­ION LAND­SCAPE CHANGED IN THAT TIME AND HOW HAVE YOU ADAPTED?

Over the past decade, fash­ion has be­come in­creas­ingly fast-paced. It’s some­times hard to keep up when the in­dus­try is con­stantly push­ing for newer and faster, but I’ve al­ways tried to stay true to my aes­thetic. Cou­ture crafts­man­ship and main­tain­ing an at­ten­tion to de­tail is al­ways my main fo­cus.

IN JUNE 2016, YOU LAUNCHED GREY JA­SON WU, WHICH FROM DAY ONE WAS DE­SCRIBED AS A ‘SIB­LING’ LA­BEL. WHAT KIND OF SIB­LING IS IT?

She’s the twin sis­ter of the Wu woman, with an el­e­gant yet ca­sual vibe about her. Grey is a way for me to em­brace ev­ery facet of the Wu woman’s life — from work to week­end and ev­ery­thing in be­tween.

WHEN YOU FIRST LAUNCHED, YOU WORKED WITH PAN­TONE TO CRE­ATE A CUSTOM SHADE OF GREY TO USE ON YOUR MAR­KET­ING MA­TE­RIAL AND PACK­AG­ING. TELL US ABOUT THAT…

Col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Pan­tone Color In­sti­tute to cre­ate my very own shade of grey was such a per­sonal pro­ject. The idea of be­ing able to trans­late and so­lid­ify the sig­nif­i­cance and mean­ing of the brand through colour was very spe­cial. The shade is a lighter tone of cool grey, which ex­udes an un­com­pli­cated so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

WHY GREY?

Grey is my favourite colour — I’ve al­ways been at­tracted to its ease, calm ele­gance and warmth. Grey Flan­nel by Ge­of­frey Beene [launched in 1975] is a per­fume that jump-started my ob­ses­sion with grey flan­nel ma­te­rial and was the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the name of the brand.

YOU’VE WORKED WITH A DIF­FER­ENT VIS­UAL ARTIST FOR EACH OF YOUR COL­LEC­TIONS.

WHAT WAS SPE­CIAL ABOUT YOUR MOST RE­CENT COL­LAB­O­RA­TION WITH PAS­CAL VONLANTHEN?

I col­lab­o­rated with Pas­cal for spring 2017. The Swiss artist has a unique and in­tu­itive ap­proach to his work that re­ally in­trigued me, and his vi­brant and graphic art­work is trans­lated in the col­lec­tion through em­broi­dery, se­quin de­tails and whim­si­cal prints.

WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT NEXT SEA­SON’S ARTIS­TIC COL­LAB­O­RA­TION?

Fall 2017 in­cor­po­rates the art­work of artist-de­signer duo Lara Ap­ponyi and Michael Wood­cock, known as Work + Sea. Lara’s back­ground is in art and Michael’s is in ar­chi­tec­ture. I first dis­cov­ered their wall­pa­per and was in­spired to work with them to cre­ate some­thing very modern. The prints in­cor­po­rate botan­i­cal themes — and even cats!

IS DE­SIGN­ING FOR GREY MORE OR LESS CHAL­LENG­ING THAN DE­SIGN­ING FOR JA­SON WU?

I get into a cre­ative cy­cle when de­sign­ing for both Ja­son Wu and Grey. I’m con­stantly think­ing ahead, which is si­mul­ta­ne­ously the most chal­leng­ing and ful­fill­ing part of the de­sign process. Grey very much has a dif­fer­ent con­cept. The ideas are sep­a­rate and the in­tent of the clothes is dif­fer­ent. Over­all, the idea is more ca­sual and in­spired by ev­ery­day life.

EAR­LIER THIS YEAR, YOU AD­DRESSED

THE PRES­SURE TO KEEP CHURN­ING OUT COL­LEC­TIONS AND SAID ONE OF YOUR RES­O­LU­TIONS FOR 2017 WAS TO MAKE MORE TIME TO BE CRE­ATIVE. HOW IS THAT WORK­ING OUT?

I am tak­ing the time to savour things a bit more. I’ve de­cided to stream­line the main Ja­son Wu col­lec­tion to two com­pelling sto­ries a year — spring and fall — in­stead of four. From a cre­ative per­spec­tive, it’s been very lib­er­at­ing.

ARE YOU STILL A BUSI­NESS­MAN, FIRST AND FORE­MOST? YOUR MANY BRANDS, PROJECTS AND PART­NER­SHIPS SUG­GEST YES.

I think I have a nat­u­ral abil­ity to bal­ance both busi­ness and cre­ativ­ity.

YOU’RE SET TO RE­LEASE YOUR FIRST FRA­GRANCE IN AU­GUST. IS THAT SOME­THING YOU’VE WANTED TO DO FOR A WHILE?

I’m so ex­cited to share my first fra­grance for women — it’s a child­hood fas­ci­na­tion come to fruition. Stay tuned!

YOU’VE ALSO BEEN BUSY WORK­ING ON A CAP­SULE COL­LEC­TION OF PIECES WITH YOUR FRIEND AND MUSE DIANE KRUGER…

Diane is a dear friend and some­one I’ve col­lab­o­rated with for many years. We came up with the idea of cre­at­ing the cap­sule to­gether over drinks on the beach dur­ing Christ­mas va­ca­tion in Tu­lum. It just felt so right! It’s been thrilling watch­ing this col­lec­tion come to­gether in the most ef­fort­less way.

UN­DOUBT­EDLY THE MOST FA­MOUS JA­SON WU WOMAN IS MICHELLE OBAMA, WHO YOU DRESSED FOR EACH IN­AU­GU­RA­TION BALL. WOULD YOU CALL HER A MUSE OF SORTS?

Ab­so­lutely. There’s no doubt that de­sign­ing for­mer First Lady Michelle Obama’s in­au­gu­ral gowns has been the great­est pro­fes­sional and per­sonal ac­com­plish­ment of my life.

YOUR HIS­TORY OF DRESS­ING HER IS OF­TEN REF­ER­ENCED IN IN­TER­VIEWS, BUT YOU’VE RE­MAINED DIS­CREET ABOUT YOUR WORK­ING RE­LA­TION­SHIP AND YOU’RE PRI­VATE ABOUT YOUR OWN POL­I­TICS. HAVE YOU FELT EX­TRA PRES­SURE IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS TO TAKE MORE OF A PUB­LIC PO­LIT­I­CAL STANCE?

The po­lit­i­cal cli­mate is some­thing we’ve all re­acted to in our own ways. It has man­i­fested in my work through the cre­ation of un­apolo­getic and fem­i­nine clothes.

YOU HAVE A VERY CLEAR PO­SI­TION WHEN IT COMES TO STYLE — EL­E­GANT, RE­FINED, SO­PHIS­TI­CATED AND SEXY. IN AN ERA IN WHICH RIPPED DENIM CAN BE WORN WITH HEELS AND A BLAZER AND CALLED OF­FICE-AP­PRO­PRI­ATE, YOUR AP­PROACH IS KIND OF RE­FRESH­ING. WHY DO YOU THINK ‘DRESS­ING UP’ EVER FELL OUT OF FASH­ION?

I think our clothes re­flect how we live. And we’re busy! I, for one, am con­stantly run­ning from one of­fice to an­other, of­ten in dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Our lives de­mand sim­plic­ity, and this is where Grey comes in. The Grey woman can be com­fort­able and ver­sa­tile, but still chic with an el­e­gant ease.

“We came up with the

idea of cre­at­ing the cap­sule to­gether over drinks on the beach dur­ing Christ­mas va­ca­tion in Tu­lum”

Above: Ja­son Wu. Fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful launch of Grey, his next chal­lenge is cre­at­ing a women’s fra­grance.

Left: Ja­son with Michelle Obama and the gown he de­signed for the 2009 in­au­gu­ral ball. Above: Diane Kruger at this year’s Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in pieces from her and Ja­son’s col­lab­o­ra­tion.

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