At age 32, Jason Wu isn't as well known to the Houston social set as Valentino, Chanel or Oscar de la Renta. But, since designing Michelle Obama's inaugural gowns in 2009 and 2013, he's earned a reputation for creating glamorous, sophisticated clothing. "I’ve grown up and my clothes have all grown up," he said. "I’ve refined my vision and that’s really important."
When in Houston recently to show his fall collection at the Houston Chronicle Best Dressed Luncheon and meet with top Neiman Marcus clients, Wu took a few moments to talk to CultureMap about how he juggles designing two lines (in addition to his namesake collection, he is creative director at Hugo Boss), why he loves the Menil Collection and some things not many people know about him. "I'm a crazy cat lady," he admits, with a laugh.
CultureMap: What were you aiming for with your fall collection?
Jason Wu: It’s about further establishing the Jason Wu woman. She’s glamorous, sophisticated, polished. This inspiration was a bit of a Catherine Deneuve feeling. There is something opulent about the fur coats, the textures of the black and white fabric, the beaded slinky dresses. (See my review of the collection from New York Fashion Week for more details.)
You want to wear a wool coat but you don’t want the fur with it, so you take it apart. That was an important goal for me in this collection.
The other idea was to mix that kind of opulence with American sportswear. Being an American designer that’s a very important element in my designs all the time. You see a lot of the coats and outerwear pieces are very transitional in the sense that they can be taken apart and worn in different weather. That’s something the modern women really needs.
Everyone travels, the weather is unpredictable, and when you can buy a truly beautiful designer piece you want to wear it for more than a month or two weeks. You want to wear a wool coat but you don’t want the fur with it, so you take it apart. That was an important goal for me in this collection.
CM: You also design the Hugo Boss line. How do you juggle everything professionally?
JW: I’m a professional juggler (laughs). I love what I do. I want to see the world. I want to work in Europe. I want to work in America. I want to be in Houston. I like it because it allows me to expand my horizon all the time. And right now it’s really being organized about my time and keeping the eye on the prize. I always refine the collections to the best version of what I do all the time. And be really, really focused. That’s how I do it all.
CM: Interluxe recently made a major investment in your company. How has that affected your business?
JW: I can certainly think about the bigger picture now, where the brand is going. Being around a young brand, I think it’s nice to be able to think of the next level. I hope to have my own retail in the future, and also expand my handbag collection. You will see the Diane handbag, which in inspired by my muse Diane Krueger.
CM: What are one to three things that someone doesn’t know about you?
JW: I’m a crazy cat lady. I have two cats, I love them. They’re Jinxy and Peaches.
I love to cook so if I weren’t doing fashion, I would probably be a chef.
And I’m not as serious as I appear to be in pictures.
CM: When were you last in Houston?
JW: A few years ago. I came for the museums. I wanted to go to the Menil and see it. It was so beautiful and inspiring. It’s so culturally significant. There’s nothing like it in the world I would say. It’s in a neighborhood, so you don’t know that it’s the most major art collection ever.
CM: Many years ago I followed a buyer from Tootsies at fashion week and we visited your studio and just sat around talking with you. Now, you’re famous.
JW: I would say almost famous.
CM: That’s the way you want to be, right?
JW: It’s better. I’m always almost famous. (laughs)…I love what I do. I can’t imagine doing something else.