Jason Wu has been blazing the fashion trail since before Michelle Obama slipped on his white chiffon gown for the President’s first inaugural ball. Since then, he’s developed a celebrity following, joined the world’s top designers, launched a line for Target, designed a stunning ruby gown for the second inaugural ball, and, oh yeah, turned 30. In early August he visited the Nordstrom store in Bellevue for the launch of the Miss Wu line. While much has changed in the past few years for Wu, his unyielding nerve to get creative hasn’t shifted an inch. “I can’t concentrate on things without drawing something,” said Wu as he took out his daily planner. On one page there’s a long to-do list but in the corners and on the opposite page there are sketches of dresses, shoes, and a face. “I always draw faces, I don’t know why” he said looking at the page with his head tilted to the side. His work is an escape — a place where he makes beautiful things. When the world seems a little daunting, he draws it more beautiful..
What has been the biggest surprise in your career?
That people appreciate my designs. That’s always a surprise.
Is there anyone you would love to design for or did Michelle Obama take the cake?
I mean, I love Michelle Obama, I love Diane Kruger who wears my dresses all the time … Michelle Williams. I love dressing women and it just so happens that there are some very influential women who love my clothes and I’m really lucky to have that. But I love dressing women.
You’re a young creative person, what advice do you have for other creative, young people?
Be true to yourself and stick with your vision. I think in this world a lot of people can influence you and want you to be this and want you to be that but at the end of the day you have to be quite authentic and if you’re not then your work isn’t authentic. And I think people can feel that.
But how do you find that balance? When you’re young and you’re creative it’s always great to have teachers, but at the same time you want to stick with your vision. Was finding that balance ever challenging for you?
I think for anyone in the creative field or any other field I suppose, it’s always a challenge. I was very lucky. I had parents who really supported me … so in that way no I didn’t. The challenge was that I’ve always been determined to do something artistic and therefore I wasn’t really good at math or history or science. Fashion and art isn’t so much a part of the curriculum so I suppose I didn’t find what I was really, really good at until I was really doing it.
How did you know you were artistic? Would you draw or paint?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. It was very, very clear from an early age, like 7 or 8, that I was going to do something artistic with my life and that never really changed.
What’s on your iPod when you’re working?
Pandora always, so I change different stations. I love the Justin Timberlake station, Beyoncé station. It’s always so energetic. I don’t like esoteric music or too cool of music, I just like music that gives you energy.
How was the process for the Miss Wu line different than your designer line or the line you did for Target?
Miss Wu is really an extension of my collection … We had to think about things that it’s doing that are different from what my main collection is doing. In so many ways, the price difference … and also it’s a much more casual (line) … it really enables me to dress more women and more women of different ages. It’s been really fun.
You have differences and similarities with all of your work but what is the thing you always incorporate?
Femininity. I don’t think you’ll ever see very androgynous work from me.
If you could tell yourself anything 10 years ago, what would it be?
I’m not really sure because I think I would do exactly what I’m doing right now. In so many ways it wasn’t that unexpected that I’m doing what I’m doing because I’ve only had a one-track mind to do it. And that was it. I knew that 10, 15, 20 years ago.
So did you see yourself where you are now 10 years ago?
Of course I didn’t know if I was going to be successful or not successful. If I was going to have a business or not a business, but certainly, in any kind of circumstance, it ended up being me designing clothes.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Travel. I think it’s important to see things and important to be part of the world in a very liberal sense. I think as a fashion designer you have to have a bigger sense of the world.