Photo: Her World
Jason Wu is showcasing his S/S '18 collection here at Singapore Fashion Week '17 this Saturday (Oct 28) and it is his first-ever show in Asia. So to say we're excited, is a huge understatment.
A fashion household name, Jason Wu is a New York based womenswear designer, originally from Taiwan, who has spent the last decade leading the way in the fashion industry with luxury designs and immitable outfits.
His fashion label oozes class, sophistication and understated elegance, which is why so many leading ladies have turned to Jason Wu as their style choice. He counts Michelle Obama, Kate Bosworth, Diane Kruger, Reese Witherspoon and Juliane Moore as just a few of the powerful women who feel empowered in his creations. Oh and as if that's not impressive enough, he's also dressed Miss Piggy too. Yes, you read that right - The Muppets got a Wu makeover.
Prior to his show, we grabbed Jason for a quick chat over coffee to find out about the inspiration behind his S/S '18 collection, how it felt to see the former US First Lady wearing his label and what he's looking forward to doing here in Singapore.
Spoiler alert - he absolutely loves chilli crab. Amen to that Jason, we hear you loud and clear!
Being a fashion designer in NYC must be extremely competitive. How did you find thriving in such a tough industry?
I’ve been in the industry for a decade, but even now I always approach things as if I am starting out – I am still learning, I am still ‘a student’ and that’s how I keep grounded, really. I keep to myself, focus on my work and myself as there are always a lot of distractions around.
What was it like when you first started out?
Oh it was very scary. I was 23/24 years old, right out of school and I thought back then I knew everything! Then after the first week I realised that actually, I knew nothing. Absolutely nothing! It was petrifying, for many years actually. In school for example, you only had to make one of everything, but suddenly you’re having to learn about production, sourcing fabric, how to do costing, how do you ship, how do you ship internationally, how do you do customer care… all of these things you never thought you’d need to learn, you’re learning.
By the age of 34, you’ve achieved some incredible designer accolades, including dressing former US First Lady Michelle Obama. How did it feel seeing her in your creations?
It was amazing. I always wanted to move to NYC, even from my early teens, and I wanted to be in fashion and be in fashion magazines, that is THE dream, right? Never did I imagine that I was going to become a social / cultural moment, through dressing the First Lady. It was something no one could have expected and definitely not something I ever thought would be on the books for me.
It’s not just about her looking great, it was also a personally and culturally significant moment.
She’s truly amazing – we’ve worked together for the last 8 years. She’s really super cool, very down to earth. You know, I’ve met a lot of people that you think they’re going to be a different way when you meet them – Michelle Obama is exactly what you think she’s going to be when you meet her. She’s so cool, laid back and a really great person. She always makes you feel very good about yourself.
The crux of your entire fashion brand ethos and foundation of every collection is sportsluxe. What is it about sportswear that you love so much? Will you ever want to branch out behind this founding style?
Sportswear started as a term in American fashion, meaning it’s basically everyday wear. So it very much originated in America. Now, decades later, it’s become the norm in fashion. Sportwear now covers basically everything – there’s no clear boundaries anymore what’s couture, athleisure or what’s sportswear. It’s all intertwined together; it’s a very modern way of dressing in a world that’s becoming increasingly more casual, it just makes sense.
You’ve made your trademark with asymmetrical garments - from sweaters to dresses, your ensembles are rarely linear. What do you love about such a playful yet chaotic structure to your ensembles?
I like to play with something classical, and putting a twist in it. I find the idea of reinterpreting classic very interesting and I’ve done it a lot in my career.
What do you personally prefer working on, couture, ready-to-wear or accessories? And why?
I love it all, but I do love working on ready-to-wear. I think it’s great, it’s always changing, different, and interesting. There are never really any rules, and that’s why I love it.
Do you still hand stitch your pieces?
I still do a lot of that before the shows, it’s all hands on deck and I am still very involved in draping etc. It’s the bit I love but due to the rest of the work, it’s the bit I get to do the least of.
Last year, you launched your sister brand GREY Jason Wu - aptly named after your favourite colour. So we have to ask, why IS grey your colour of choice?
It has been for a very long time…I think there’s something very soothing and warm about it that I just love it. I think it’s very sophisticated. Like heather grey to me is so beautiful, it’s one of the most beautiful colours. Black is a little bit harder, grey is soft,cosy and feminine to me.
What is the main difference between GREY Jason Wu and Jason Wu collections?
Jason Wu is very much my designer collection, very glamourous, sensual and feminine – pretty dressed up. GREY is my reaction to dressing the Jason Wu woman off-duty, on the weekends. It’s my more casual side – it’s more my personality as I like sneakers and casual dressing.
People thought for years, because of my aesthetic, that I am a very serious person, so GREY is showing the other side of me.
For your S/S ‘18 collection, you’ve kept to a muted colour palette of deep greens, powder pinks and soft greys. What made you stick to these choices?
Spring is always my favourite to design. Spring is so fresh and light, and the idea was to use all these pastel colours as these tones were really inspiring me. I actually just launched my fragrance which is pale pink and it’s something I’ve been living with for the past year, so it’s kind of a journey - which was the basis of the collection too, all of these pale beautiful floral tones. Then mixed with these beautiful neutrals, then this pop of bright floral print.
Personal favourite from S/S ‘18 is…?
The opening dress actually. It’s really sexy, sporty, a play on American sportswear again done with a twist and cut out at the sides. Sexy, sensual and feminine at the same time.
Who is the ‘Jason Wu’ woman? How would you describe her?
She’s somebody who really appreciates clothes’ quality, she’s feminine and she appreciates quality materials - that’s something that is very important to her. She’s not a flashy person, she likes subtle details like beautiful construction inside a jacket or dress – it’s about more than what meets the eye. Subtle elegance is a good way to put it.
Who was your favourite AND least favourite celebrity to work with, and why!
My favourite, favourrrite celebrity to style is Diane Kruger. She’s one of my closest friends, a muse and she is somebody that I have so much admiration for. Dressed her from many different things for the last 8 years – and we’re actually doing a capsule collection together! It’s coming out in November.
The least favourite…Miss Piggy. She was DIFFICULT. She arrived with like, no head. It was tough, I only got a body, was so tough. I mean I was like, does she have a neck? I didn’t even know the measurements…was tough! She was difficult.
Do tell us, what does a fashion designer do for fun? I take it you avoid looking at a sewing machine at all costs!
I LOVE to cook. I love it. I love to do a hearty roast chicken, with rosemary and stuffed with garlic. Crispy skin, fresh carrots… delicious.
Do you even get much free time?
On the weekends I do, I want to carve out a little time for myself, and nowadays I prefer to eat at home with some friends. To me, it’s very calming.
Give us a brief overview in ‘a day in the life of Jason Wu’
As soon as I wake up, first thing I reach for is my phone. Europe is already bustling so I am already answering emails from Europe. My schedule is very rapid, every 30 minutes to 1 hour there is something planned, so very fast. I usually work until 8pm and then there will be an event or a dinner in the evening, almost every night. I’m out all the time, it’s a pretty full on week. Which is why I love being at home on the weekends.
So you’re at a party and someone says “Jason! Show us all your party trick!” What do you do?
Let’s do a shot. Works every time.
What was the last emoji you’ve used on your Whatsapp, and who was it to? :P
It was to my friend Emma in London and it was a cat with hearts….because we’re both cat people. I love cats! Obsessed. I have two. Cats is like, a whole 6-hour conversation for me, I love them. I love my cats.
Where’s your favourite place to visit in Asia, and why (no pressure to say Singapore or anything!)
Taiwan - because that’s where I am from. The food is amazing. To me, it’s home even though I moved away from there when I was 9, so to me it’s very comforting.
Are you planning to visit any places of interest in Singapore?
The first time I came to Singapore was when I was 6. That technically doesn’t count and so this might as well be my first visit here. I’ll probably go out after the show on Saturday, I’ve heard it's pretty fun to go out!
I am supposed to go to Newton Circus, and Lau Pa Sat - these are very street market things that I want to go to.
I’m also going to go to Din Tai Fung - it’s a dumpling place, one of my favourite places in the entire world, originates from Taiwan. It’s so good.
What’s your tipple of choice!
I love a vodka martini! I don’t think they really make that here in Singapore? I tried to order one yesterday but don’t think they do that here, more straight up drinks.
Have you tried any Singapore food? What’s your favourite?
I just tried chilli crab first time actually at JUMBO Seafood and it was delicious! I loved it.
Do you have a message for your Singapore fans?
It’s the first time actually that I’ve done a fashion show in Asia, throughout my career, so I’m really excited to do it. The first decade of my career I concentrated on establishing myself in Europe and America where I was based. So now I want to concentrate on Asia and hopefully this will be the start of a lot more shows!
All Photo Credit: Dan Lecca