New York – Business is booming for Jason Wu, the young New York-based designer whose name became a household name when first lady Michelle Obama wore his one-shouldered white gown to President Obama's inaugural ball in January earlier this year.
"The inauguration really helped in terms of awareness outside of America, being a young brand," said Wu on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 8, in New York. "I was just in Beijing, and people recognize the brand there and people recognize the brand in London, in Dubai, and it's known all over the world."
Wu will be moving to this new, bigger space in a few weeks, something he never imagined he'd have to do when he established his company in his current studio three years ago.
"When I first moved in there I painted the walls myself, it was very personal, I was like 'this place is so big, I'm never going to outgrow it'. Then we outgrew it," marveled Wu.
Wu's output has also grown exponentially - for instance, the 2010 season marks the first time he's done a Pre-Fall collection.
"Business is at the stage where we need four seasons a year to keep the store stocked," said Wu. "We shipped Resort three weeks ago and it's already sold out of the store."
Wu was sitting at a long table in front of a portfolio of lookbook photos from his Pre-Fall 2010 collection, while the actual clothing lined racks on either side of the table in the unfinished showroom space.
"I thought Pre-fall was really interesting to do because it's sort of like a laboratory where I got to resolve ideas, from Spring, and explore new ideas for Fall," said Wu. "It's a really good interim season."
A house model wandered in and out, showing off the delicate details of Wu's latest effort, best appreciated in person - chiffon covered sequins that looked like delicate feathers, a silver laser cut leather dress with an architectural sweep that reminded one of Eero Saarinen's New York airline terminal for TWA.
Accordingly, airline travel was theme of this collection.
"I was looking up the '60s and '70s Pan Am stewardesses and I thought it was such a glamorous career," said Wu. "I thought, that's a great way to bring glamour into a uniform, and explore that concept, the uniform, and also travel. Where Spring was this exuberant burst of colors, Pre-Fall I wanted to have this sophisticated austerity to it that a uniform brings."
Wu pointed out his trompe-l'oeil concept for one piece garments that looked like two pieces: Short dresses featured flight attendant-like ascot ties, a tweed dress came sewn with a black leather bib and a sequined sleeve was attached to another top.
"There's a lot of duality to these pieces," explained Wu. "And you know, in terms of practicality, Pre-Fall ships in mid-May, so really it's about buy-now wear-now clothes, and the way weather and climate is, people don't want to wear overly heavy clothing and so this creates the look of layering without actually having to layer. There's that sense of lightness in Pre-Fall that I thought was really important to have."
In the end, it's that kind of business savvy that is enabling Wu to take full advantage of the extra publicity he's seen over the last year or so to really push the creative limits of his collections. The result has been precisely rendered, increasingly complex and quite simply, stunning designs.
"It's great just to be able to spread my wings, and to do different things," said Wu. "And our collection's growing, business is growing. It's been a really good year in terms of growth."