by alexandria geisler | August 29, 2013 | Style & Beauty
The full force of Jason Wu's fall collection will grace the racks at Saks in Chevy Chase.
Prepare to be Wu-ed by Saks Fifth Avenue's presentation.
Diane Kruger is among the stunning set who have worn Wu.
Black satin and velvet trench dress ($2,995).
The first lady has opted to wear Wu not once, but twice.
Often outfitted in a simple T-shirt, blazer, and jeans, designer Jason Wu, 30, is as polished as the immaculate New York City design studio in which he sits. Expanding his eponymous label from a small ready-to-wear collection into a full luxury lifestyle brand in just seven years, he has been busy. In addition to his women’s clothing line, Wu’s empire includes a celebrated accessories line; a sister contemporary label, Miss Wu; and a collaborative beauty line with Lancôme, out this September. Most exciting, this fall marks the first time that the designer—five years into his partnership with Saks Fifth Avenue—will bring his clothing and accessories collections to Saks in Chevy Chase, a milestone he celebrated with an exclusive fashion show.
Joined earlier by event co-chair Elise Lefkowitz, Wu presented his Fall 2013 collection to a crowd of more than 350 women as part of the third annual Great Ladies Luncheon, an event that benefits the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation. “It was amazing and exciting,” he says. “I was honored to see so many women wearing my clothes! I love what I do, and it’s such a high form of compliment when people choose to wear my designs.”
Sleek and sophisticated, Wu’s aesthetic has earned him a high-profile clientele of powerful, stylish women such as Stephanie Seymour and Diane Kruger—and first lady Michelle Obama made the designer famous when she wore his white, beaded chiffon gown during the 2009 Inaugural Ball. And four years later, she stepped out in another Wu creation for the president’s second Inaugural Ball.
“There is no doubt that designing the inaugural gowns has been the single greatest professional and personal accomplishment in my life—I certainly didn’t expect [it] twice,” he says. “The first lady has a singular style that is so forward yet timeless. I like to think my own designs represent those qualities as well.”
From his richly embellished, floor-skimming gowns to more-relaxed daywear, such as silk blouses and cigarette pants, Wu’s collections are consistently elegant yet wearable. (Look into his archives and seldom will you find an item of clothing without intricate beading, corsetry, or embroidery.) “I’ve always been detail-driven, precocious, and inquisitive,” Wu says. “As a child, I knew I wanted to do something creative. One of my first drawings was of a mermaid, and even at a young age I was drawn to the feminine form.”
Born in Taiwan to parents in the import-export business, Wu moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, with his family at age 9. He learned to speak English in part by reading his mother’s fashion magazines. It was in Canada that he received his first sewing machine, a gift from his mother, and later began designing clothing for children’s dolls. (His first creation was a formal blue evening gown.) Eventually moving to New York City to attend Parsons The New School for Design, Wu independently launched his label in 2006 with funds from his family and from years of doll design. “Looking back, I think I must have been absolutely insane,” he jokes. “I often wore many hats, with jobs ranging from designer one second to shipping manager [to] sales representative. These efforts were tedious and very demanding at times, but they paid off because I can truly say that I learned the industry from the ground up.”
He may have a hand in nearly every aspect of his business, but Wu finds creating a new collection the most rewarding. (His ideal day would be one of uninterrupted sketching.) Often informed by a specific idea or concept, the designer admits that even simple pieces of fabric or striking colors have served as past sources of inspiration.
The “strength of women,” Wu says, inspired the fall collection, which features sublimely feminine pieces with pronounced hourglass shapes. Oxford shirting is buttoned to the top; skirt suits are exquisitely tailored; and a predominantly black, white, and red palette projects a clear message of power.
Meanwhile, the collection’s lace printed trench coats, pleated cocktail dresses, and evening gowns with sheer polka dots, silk, and beading pay homage to a woman’s sensual side. “My favorite look was the red pleated silk georgette peplum top paired with black tuxedo stovepipe pants,” Wu says. “It embodies extreme femininity.”
The label’s accessories collection includes similar embellishments. Italian leather shoulder bags and boots are given a modern edge thanks to cutaways and exposed woven stitching, while hand-beading and leather cabochons appear on evening bags. And richly textured materials—such as the python skin and brushed calf’s leather of the Jourdan tote and the ladylike Daphne bag’s calf hair—lend Wu’s It bags a fresh spirit. “The main difference in accessory design is that you have to put a lot of consideration into its everyday functionality,” he explains. “It not only has to look good; it has to last forever, too.”
That practical yet pretty aspect of Wu’s designs is one that appeals to Washington women. “I think DC has been viewed as having a more conservative sensibility,” he says, “but I happen to know that the women of DC have a particular love affair with fashion.”
And because he remains dedicated to designing beautifully made clothing that also stands the test of time, Wu’s Washington arrival is sure to be celebrated. Saks Fifth Avenue, 5555 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-657-9000
photography by jayme thornton; michael kovac/wire Image (obama); LARRY BUSACCA/GETTY IMAGES (Kruger)
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