News & Runway

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jason Wu

Designer Jason Wu

image: Imaxtree

Thrust into the spotlight after Michelle Obama wore his designs at the 2009 inaugural balls and subsequently in 2013, Jason Wu has cemented his place as one of fashion’s most promising talents. Now with his work as artistic director for Hugo Boss where he oversees the womenswear collection, his influence is poised to grow exponentially. Here’s a look at 10 things you probably didn’t know about the soft-spoken New York City-based designer.

  1. Wu was born in Taipei, Taiwan and moved to Canada at the age of 9 speaking no English. His love of fashion helped him learn the language. “I think I knew how to say ‘hi,’ and ‘apple,’ something like that,” he has said. “I needed to find something to relate to in the language and I found this stack of fashion magazines my mom had left around. I was looking at the shoots, and I wanted to read about the fashion designers. So I got a dictionary and was going back and forth, and that’s really how I learnt the language. I always loved art and design, but that’s really when I started to love fashion, too.”
  2. The designer is a big fan of RuPaul, telling Interview that he thinks he creates serious fashion, “but I don’t want to keep my focus on that. You have to look at a lot of different things. I mean, people are always surprised when they find out that my favorite show is RuPaul’s Drag Race. [both laugh] I love that era RuPaul came out of because it was around the time that I first discovered fashion. I remember M.A.C’s first Viva Glam campaign had RuPaul in a little red bustier, which was like to die—but I thought that he was a she. That campaign was amazing—like, red legs for days. So I was infatuated. I went out and bought RuPaul’s first CD Supermodel of the World [1993]. It’s the best CD ever. [sings] ‘Cover girl, work it girl, give a twirl …’ Later, of course, I found out that it was a man. But he was so tall and glittery and impressive, with the big hair … You know, a fashion-obsessed boy would be into that.”
  3. Wu took no chances when it came to getting his inaugural gown design to Michelle Obama. “I actually packed the gown and flew it to Chicago myself! I didn’t want to take any chances! I didn’t know she would wear it until the night,” he explained. “When I moved to America to be a fashion designer, I never imagined I would become part of American history, that my work would be cemented in a museum long after I’ve gone. For me, that was a really personally significant moment in my life.”
  4. You won’t see teenagers in Wu’s ad campaigns. In fact, Stephanie Seymour, one of his idols, was the star of his Spring/Summer 2013 campaign, which was also his first. “Sometimes when you meet people you idolize, they don’t turn out the way you imagine they would be. Stephanie turned out to be even better. We’ve remained friends ever since,” he has said. “It’s not a 16-year-old girl buying my clothes, and I feel it is important to have women [in my campaigns] who embody what the brand is.”
  5. Wu’s mother is a best-selling author in Taiwan and when she gives speeches, the designer says she tells people to “let their kids find their passions and follow them. She is a great mom. I feel like no matter who else is wearing my dresses, she’s always the one I think about when I start a new collection, not her style, necessarily, but just her love and encouragement. I’m fine with my mom talking about what it was like to raise me, even to total strangers, because she really was just the best mom ever.”
  6. Ironically, Wu’s first designer purchase was a Hugo Boss suit. “You’ll think I’m just saying that because I’m doing Hugo Boss now, but I swear. I was 14 years old, and I needed my first nice suit, but I still wanted it to look cool and modern, and I wanted it to fit me. So I went to Hugo Boss, I swear, and I was about to be a freshman in high school, and I bought my first suit!” he exclaimed. “I had Dior Barbie, remember. My high school had a pretty strict dress code, and I think I might have been the only freshman that wanted to follow [it].”
  7. Designing his namesake collection is a very different process from designing for Hugo Boss. “I kind of love doing Hugo Boss because it’s a different kind of designing for me. With Jason Wu, it’s really about my personal aesthetic. With Boss, it’s about interpreting their DNA, style and heritage through my vision. It’s actually two very different ways of designing,” he has said, but also noted that Boss has taught him a lot about his own brand. “Part of it is just because, as a brand, Jason Wu is still very young – just eight years. It’s important to evolve all the time and I think my work has grown up as I’ve grown up. Working with Hugo Boss has taught me how to do things on a very big scale. It’s inspiring to know you influence more people through a powerhouse like Boss. When you roll something out, it’s everywhere, and that feels nice.”
  8. When he’s not designing, Wu likes to cook, travel, sightsee and collect books. He also loves the Nintendo Wii and bowling, which he called “endless fun. It’s my only way of getting exercise nowadays because I’m so busy.” His guilty pleasure is dessert. “I love sweets,” he has said.
  9. He goes to Coachella with Diane Kruger every year. “We have this annual thing with our other halves,” said Wu. “We all go to Coachella. It’s really fun because it’s not about fashion. It’s not about anything we do […] I had never been before and one year Diane was like, ‘Come!’ and I was like, ‘Uh, I don’t know…it’s not very me.'”
  10. It was announced in September 2014 that Wu had sold the majority stake in his company to investment firm InterLuxe, whose chairman Gary Wassner has a strong background in fashion and relationships with many designers. When explaining his reasoning to WWD, the designer said “I feel great that I can just have the support to really be able to concentrate on what I signed up to do really from Day One, [which] was to design and to create and to run a successful fashion business….It just means I have more expertise and support around me to be able to do what I do better.”