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August 28 2014

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Five Questions For Jason Wu

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Jason Wu likes to say that his first fashion experience was as “a small-scale patternmaker.” Small indeed: While still in high school, Wu launched a career as a doll designer. This might make for nothing more than some interesting trivia, were it not for the fact that Wu continues to demonstrate an interest in the miniature, even as he’s scaled up to life-size designs. The clothes in Wu’s Spring 2009 collection, his sixth so far, seem built from the details up—tiny pleated fans tiered together to make a skirt; crystal beadwork on a coat dispersing in a wash, like embroidered ombré. Nevertheless, working small hasn’t stopped Wu from thinking big. For his Spring collection, the Taipei-born, Vancouver-raised designer branched out into sportswear and added to the archive of event dresses that have won him fans among the gala glitterati. This year, he was tapped as a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. The winner of the 2008 prize will be announced November 17; in the meantime, Wu answers Style.com’s questions about life in the Top Ten.

What made you want to be a designer?

I can’t remember wanting to be anything else. I think I began to articulate the idea to myself after seeing this spread on Lacroix couture in Vogue in 1992 or ’93. That was really inspirational to me. And going to the fabric store—that was inspirational, too .

What was the scariest moment of the CFDA/Vogue process?

I got to my interview early, and I was sitting in the Vogue office for a while overcaffeinated at 7:00 a.m. [I was] just waiting… and going over stuff in my head. Over and over. The anticipation was a killer.

Was there a most rewarding moment, for you?

My show. I mean, this whole CFDA/Vogue process was so interwoven with the process of putting together my Spring 2009 collection, which was my biggest to date. Getting it up on the runway brought everything together. Afterward, Anna Wintour came backstage to congratulate me. That was huge, having someone I respect so much show her support.

What are you going to wear to the awards?

I just got a jacket from Swaim and Christina at Obedient Sons and Daughters, so I’ll be wearing that, I assume. And then I’ll be bringing Tina Chai with me, and she’ll be wearing the ivory crepe dress with gold embroidery from my Spring collection. Look 25. She put it on and it was pretty much perfect.

The top prize here is $200,000. But tell us, where did your first funding come from?

Dolls. [Laughs]. Seriously. You know my first career in fashion was making dolls, right? Actually, I’m still doing it. I have exactly zero time, but I’m still at it.

Speaking of money, what’s your up-and-coming designer’s take on the current economic crisis?

I think it’s important to recognize that, even when—or maybe especially when—times are tough, fashion is an outlet. It’s fantasy. I mean, I just shipped my holiday delivery to Bergdorf Goodman, and included in that was look 24 from Spring, which I did in five different very bright colors. Within a week of shipping, more than a quarter of those dresses were gone. Sold. People are still looking for clothes that are special, that they can keep and appreciate.

Photo: George Napolitano / FilmMagic

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