ONE YEAR AGO this week, a white gown dotted with milky flowers elevated 27-year-old Jason Wu from up-and-coming designer to fashion star. Michelle Obama's inaugural ball gown isn't yet enshrined in the Smithsonian alongside the other first ladies' finery, but the Taipei-born, New York-based Wu has definitely become a part of fashion history.
EXPRESS: Did your life change overnight after the inauguration
WU: It was pretty dramatic. Things definitely haven't been the same since that night. For a brand that's just three years old to be internationally recognized - that often takes 20, 30 years. And for an immigrant who came here to do fashion to suddenly be a part of American history, it's an incredible experience.
EXPRESS: Even my mom knows who you are now.
WU: My name was suddenly broadcast to every house in the world that owned a television set. I was crossing the street one day soon after, and a truck driver pulled up, rolled down the window and said, "Hey, you're that guy Jason who designed the inauguration dress." I never for one second thought a truck driver would know who I am.
EXPRESS: Were your parents thrilled?
WU: My parents have always been supportive, but my extended family is very business-oriented and never quite understood what I did. So, finally, they got it.
EXPRESS: Has life gotten easier for you since the inauguration?
WU: Things have gotten much harder, because now I have a lot more work. But I love it.
EXPRESS: How would you describe your designs?
WU: My line is just three years old, so it's young for a fashion brand. But from the start, it's had a very specific aesthetic of a refined quality with an American sportwear spin.
EXPRESS: Can you give an example?
WU:In the spring collection, there's a sweatshirt and sweatpant look — but it's a midnight blue cigarette trouser and a hoodie done in a suiting fabric. We mixed a tracksuit with a lady's suit. It's my response to the way we're progressing as a society - there's a very casual way of dressing, but you can still look dressed up.
EXPRESS: Your pieces cost thousands of dollars. What justifies the price?
WU: Many times, if you look at a picture, you can't tell the difference between a $200 dress and mine, which might be $1,200. But it's the feel of the material, the weight of the buttons, the detailed trim inside the lining that only the wearer might see. These are things that make a designer garment. It's not just a higher price — I think that's a huge misconception.
EXPRESS: If you had more time, what would you like to do?
WU:I'd love to go to a proper culinary school. I love eating; I love the way food looks. I think a French macaron is just so beautiful.
Photo Courtesy Jason Wu