The Jason Wu Interview
The award-winning fashion designer rocketed to fame when Michelle Obama wore one of his creations at Barak’s first & second inaugurations. Since then, he’s become the go-to designer for Hollywood A-listers and celebrities. Now, he unveils his first signature fragrance, a chic jasmine-themed eau de parfum. I had the honour of interviewing Jason to get an insider view at his remarkable life.
Jason Wu 101
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, on September 27th, 1982
Emigrated to Vancouver, BC, at the age of nine.
He learned to design by sewing outfits for dolls
Studied sculpture in Tokyo
Attended Parsons The New School for Design in New York City
Launched his first fashion collection in 2007
Wu’s early clients included January Jones, Amber Valetta, Kate Bosworth & Diane Kruger
In 2013, Jason was named Art Director for German fashion house Hugo Boss overseeing the entire womenswear range.
The Jason Wu Interview
Dave: To start, tell us how you approached creating a signature fragrance. What was the process and where did you look for inspiration?
Jason Wu: I’ve always been super-enthusiastic about beauty and it’s something I’ve worked into my runway shows in a very specific way. I wanted to create my own fragrance since I started designing. The approach to creating a fragrance is very different from designing a collection as a scent is not seasonal and the project is more personal.
Dave: What is your favourite fragrance note and why?
J.W.: Jasmine sambac is my favourite note. It brought me back to my childhood in Taiwan where I used to pick flowers from my neighbour’s stone wall of jasmine.
Dave: What are your memories growing up in Vancouver?
J.W.: When I first moved to Canada from Taiwan, my mom bought me my first sewing machine. That was really when I first started sewing. I’ve had many wonderful memories of Vancouver. It was my first Western experience. I learned English, which was my second language. My tutor knew I wasn’t interested in textbooks and gave me fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar to learn English.
Dave: How do you like to work when creating a collection? Do you prefer to work at night or are you very structured during the day?
J.W.: There’s no such thing as a slow day at my studio but I like my working environment to be calm and collected. As a designer, I tell a story through each of my collections. The creative process is the most exciting part of my job. I often start with a a specific idea or concept. Even a piece of fabric or a colour can jump start the creative process.
Dave: What was the process of working with perfumer Frank Voelkl?
J.W.: Working with Frank was a seamless process. I had a clear idea that I wanted the fragrance to be light: the pink pepper and fig adds movement and vibrancy while the base notes of silky musk adds texture without heaviness.
Dave: The bottle is very sculptural.
J.W.: I love mid-century design and the bottle, designed by architect Andre Mellone, is inspired by favourite modern artists such as Joseph Alber and Ellsworth Kelley.
Dave: Tell me about the moment you learned that Michelle Obama was going to wear one of your creations.
J.W.: It was a very exciting moment! The truth is, I had no idea my design was being seriously considered until I, along with the rest of the world, saw Mrs. Obama step out on television wearing the gown. I was having pizza and imagine my surprise to have learned that I would be a part of that moment in American history. There is no doubt designing the First Lady’s inaugural gowns has been the single greatest professional and personal accomplishments in my life.
Dave: What advice do you give aspiring designers starting out their careers?
J.W.: My mother told me to always remain a student and never stop learning. I carry that piece of advice with me every day.
Dave: If you could pick any Hollywood actress from any era, who would you see wearing your new fragrance and why?
J.W.: Jean Seberg had a prominence and elegance on screen that was undeniable, I would want any woman wearing my scent to exude that confidence.
Dave: You ad campaign is called the Supermodel Supper Club. What is your favourite restaurant in the world?
J.W.: Din Tai Fung and their soup dumplings, Indochine and their glazed duck, and China Blue and their fish fillet in rice wine.
Dave: What flowers do you love to have in your apartment?
J.W.: Jasmine! It has a strong presence in my fragrance. Peonies as well – always chic and the perfect fragrance for gifting.
Dave: Who has been the most fascinating person you’ve sat beside at a dinner party?
J.W.: I attended the Whitehouse Correspondence Dinner. I was in a room filled with Ambassadors and political figures. Definitely an experience of a lifetime.
Dave: How many versions of the fragrance did you test before you picked the final version?
J.W.: I tried several versions on myself, my friends, and my team and tested the scent throughout the day before deciding on the final version.
The Jason Wu fragrance
Scent style: a fresh floral-woody fragrance for her
Notes: Italian bergamot, mandarin, pink pepper, fig, freesia, peony, muguet, iris, jasmine sambac, milky wood, papyrus & silky musk
Fascinating fact: Each morning, jasmine sambac, known in India as ‘Queen of the Night’, is hand-picked by thousands of farmers to ensure the best quality. The jasmine that is collected is still a bud and must be timed just right so that the delicate flowers will bloom in 24 hours for prime extraction conditions. It takes 50 pounds of jasmine petals to produce 1 oz of jasmine oil.
Jason Wu Eau de Parfum, 90 ml, $145. It will be available exclusively in Canada at select Hudson’s Bay stores and thebay.com