Designer Jason Wu was thrown into the public spotlight the moment America’s first lady Michelle Obama wore one of his creations to her husband’s 2009 inauguration ball.
The one-shouldered, ivory, silk chiffon gown is now in the Smith-sonian. This week’s Talk Asia follows the young designer from his New York design studio to Taiwan, on his first visit home since hitting the big time. Michelle’s choice of gown made Jason an overnight success — a label that doesn’t sit well with the Asian-American designer. “Fashion doesn’t come overnight," and adds, “I’ve been working at this my entire life, and in fact my business did not start the night before the inauguration.”Wu, amongst other designers, was approached by her unofficial stylist Ikram Goldman to design a dress. "I didn’t want to take any chances and send the dress by Fedex," he says on hand delivering the dress to Chicago. Wu had no idea that his gown was chosen until he saw the First Lady on TV. "I was like, I know that gown and then it set in. I just cried for half an hour. It was quite emotional," he says.The 27-year-old instantly became a household name.
Michelle Obama has also donned Wu’s designs on other occasions, including a magenta dress for the front cover of Vogue magazine and a black satin coat when meeting with Queen Elizabeth. Having met the First Lady in person, Wu says that her definition of style is very personal to her. “I know some outfits have sparked some debate, mine or not mine. But it’s her taste,” he says.
Wu is now producing four seasons a year and has just launched his own accessories line. “That really is a lot of pressure. It’s not for the faint hearted to be a fashion designer,” he says.