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July 28 2014

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3 posts tagged "Woolmark"

“RuPaul Is Kind of the Ultimate Supermodel,” and More Musings From Parsons Honoree Jason Wu

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Jason Wu

With his Hugo Boss debut and thriving eponymous line, Jason Wu is having a banner year. So it comes as little surprise that the 31-year-old Taiwanese-Canadian designer is picking up the top honor at Parsons’ 2014 Fashion Benefit, which is set for tomorrow evening. Ahead of the festivities, Wu, who’s both a Parsons alum and—fun fact—a former toy designer, took time away from wrapping his forthcoming Resort collection to speak with Style.com about his secrets to success, New York fashion’s changing landscape, and his obsession with RuPaul.

Congratulations on the Parsons honor. Considering you studied at the school, do you feel you’ve come full circle?
I’ve kind of come full circle because I moved here in 2001 for my first year at Parsons. So it’s nice to go back and be a part of this new generation of the school, which has taught me a lot and done so much for me. It’s a very nice honor and I’m very proud. But I don’t think I’ve made it—at all. I think I’ve hit a nice moment in my career and it feels great to have your peers and people in your industry acknowledge your work. But that’s not to say that there’s not much more work to do.

Between your debut at Hugo Boss, the success of your own line, and now this award, it seems that you’ve really hit your stride this year.
I don’t know. I always think there’s more to do, so I never think I’ve hit my stride. I always want more and want to do more, but certainly I think it’s been a great year so far, having done two shows in New York for the first time, and then getting this award. I guess that comes with age and experience and just doing it for a while. And I guess I’m getting a little better at it.

Do people look at you differently now that you’ve become the big man at Boss?
I don’t know if I’ve knocked it out of the park yet, but I think we had a really successful first show and I guess people look at me a little more like a grown-up, a big person.

Do you feel like a grown-up?
Yeah, I feel a little older. I guess that means grown-up. Definitely achier.

Jason Wu

Your Boss show was quite the star-studded event, and Jennifer Lawrence just wore a gown from your Fall collection to the world premiere of X-Men: Days of Future Past. What role does celebrity dressing play in a designer’s success?
Having people you admire wear your clothes in a very public way is inspiring, and it’s also a great way to get your work out there. It’s a great form of advertising. But for me it’s always about quality, not quantity, and it’s about dressing the few girls that I love. I’ve always been very loyal to Diane Kruger, Reese Witherspoon, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Kerry Washington—those are girls I dress over and over and over again. And you really develop a rapport and a friendship and a relationship. It goes back to the days when Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn, and Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent, had those relationships that went [beyond commerciality]. Those were true relationships. It’s great to continue that tradition.

Can a young designer make it these days without a celebrity bump?
Everyone does it differently. There are some people who make clothes that are more appropriate for a red carpet and there are some people who don’t. I’m not sure if it’s a do-or-die situation, but you do have to seek exposure in your own way, in a way that’s right for your brand.

Jennifer LawrenceHow did you come to dress Jennifer Lawrence for her X-Men premiere? Was that a big moment for you?

Yeah. Actually, we just found out [the day before]. I had no idea. I think there’s something so incredibly human about her. That’s why people love her so much—she’s so relatable. She shows a little imperfection—which we all have—and still looks stunning.

You mentioned that people like seeing imperfection in public figures. With that in mind, people seem to like you a lot. What’s your imperfection?

My imperfection is that I’m not as perfect as people seem to think I am. There’s a sense of controlled, sophisticated ideas in my clothes that are quite neat, and I think people sometimes think I’m that, but I’m not.

Are you messy?
I’m actually not messy. I’m terrible at waking up early. I’m terrible at a lot of things. I’m terrible at technology—anything computer-oriented. And I’m terrible at making anything on time, which I’m really working on. Actually, at Parsons, I was always really late, and you can’t be late at Parsons. You really get into trouble.

You, along with Alexander Wang, Prabal Gurung, Joseph Altuzarra, etc., are part of New York’s new guard. How do you think the creative climate here is changing?
Right now, New York fashion week is at its best. We have the most young talent [succeeding] at the same time for the first time in a long, long while, and this is the first time that we’ve really been acknowledged on an international level in a long time. That has to do with the fact that our generation’s outlook is global, rather than local. If you look at Style.com, you can read that anywhere in the world. That certainly helps. Having that kind of recognition all over the world is something that is quite rare. We’re experiencing something of a moment, a movement.

Why is that, do you think?
It is, in so many ways, New York’s time. All [of the young designers] in New York come from different international backgrounds. I think that’s a very nice representation of what New York fashion is about—it’s about diversity; it’s about fresh ideas; it’s about making its own statement, because we don’t have the hundreds of years of history. We’re really still, as a whole, quite new at it.

Jason Wu Fall 14

Do you remember how you felt when you were designing your Parsons graduate collection?
It’s so funny because I went to Parsons and my major was menswear, yet I make the most fit-and-flare dresses you could possibly imagine. I guess after going to the very masculine side, I felt like I was much more comfortable in the very feminine side, and eventually the combination of the two became my work as we know it today.

Why were you initially drawn to menswear?
I always liked the idea of tailoring. I always felt making a jacket was the most difficult thing, and it is still the most difficult. Sometimes the cleanest things with the least amount of details are the most intricate.

What do fashion students need to know that isn’t necessarily taught in school?
It’s that the fashion industry isn’t by-the-books. It’s not about following one specific route, it’s about paving your own way and making it your own. That’s what makes fashion interesting—individual visions—and not one person breaks through in the same way. We all get into it slightly differently—I worked in toys first.

Speaking of toys, I read that back in the day, you did a RuPaul doll?
I worked with RuPaul once! It was a long time ago. We made a RuPaul doll and it was wildly successful and that’s how I met him. Of course, RuPaul’s Drag Race is my favorite show ever. It’s like the best show on television. RuPaul is kind of the ultimate supermodel, and I have an obsession with supermodels.

Jason Wu RuPaul

Does your former life as a toy designer ever inform your fashion designs?
Attention to detail is what links my work as a toy designer and a fashion designer. Most people say I went from dressing toy dolls to real dolls. That’s kind of the press-y version of it. But in actuality, I did everything from designing the sculptural form of the dolls to the industrialization of the molds to the manufacturing. I always knew how to create a really good product, and I think that experience primed me for this industry.

How important has business savvy been to your success?
The balance between creativity and business-savvy is something that every young designer needs to be aware of, because it’s the reality of our industry. Having that balance is something that my generation of New York designers really thinks about.

What is your advice to fashion students who want to be the next Jason Wu?
I don’t know if they do want to be the next Jason Wu! But my advice is seize every opportunity and work hard. It sounds so obvious to say that, but the glamour of the industry can get distracting sometimes, and at the end of the day it’s about the work. I work weekends all the time—there’s no such thing as overtime for me because my own time is overtime. And I don’t have any vacations, so cancel those family plans.

Photo: Alessandro Garofalo / Indigitalimages.com; Leandro Justen/BFANYC.com; FilmMagic; Alessandro Garofalo / Indigitalimages.com; Getty Images

Pitti’s Plans

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Yesterday afternoon, Raffaello Napoleone, the CEO of Florence-based fashion fair Pitti Immagine, hosted a lunch at Il Cantinori—the much-loved Italian restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village. The purpose was to discuss the upcoming Pitti Uomo (June 18 to 21), Pitti W (June 18 to 21), and Pitti Bimbo (June 27 to 29). And while the fettuccine and branzino may have been old-school, Napoleone’s plans for this season’s fairs felt forward-thinking. Napoleone told Style.com that, in general, fashion fairs are not often, well, fashionable. Pitti aims to be the exception to this rule. “We try to do as much research as we can, because the Italian and international buyers need to see something new season after season. We have to offer them something that they cannot find easily on the map,” he explained.

Addressing the press and buyers in attendance, Napoleone highlighted Pitti Uomo’s and Pitti W’s guest designers—Japanese menswear label Kolor and Paris-based womenswear label Damir Doma—who will show on the evenings of June 20 and June 19, respectively. A focus has been placed on new designers from emerging markets, with six young talents from Korea and seven from Pitti Uomo’s guest nation, Turkey, slotted to present their latest wares. And Pitti’s Italics platform will lend its support to up-and-coming brands MSGM by Massimo Giorgetti, Aquazzura by Edgardo Osorio, and Stella Jean.

Other highlights include the debut of Tom Dixon’s project with Adidas; a new premium collection from G-Star Raw; an automobile collaboration between Italdesign Giugiaro, Cerruti, and the Woolmark company; and a fashion show for Andrea Pompilio’s collaborative range with Japanese sportswear label Onitsuka Tiger.

Napoleone conceded that Europe’s economic troubles have taken a toll. “More companies are suffering, and some of them decided not to exhibit,” he said, noting that about forty labels dropped out this season. But with about 1,010 participating brands, 370 of which are from outside Italy, visiting buyers and press will still have more than enough on their plates.

Photo: Yannis Valmos/ GoRunway.com

Dissatisfaction Is An Asset, And More Woolmark Wisdom From Alber Elbaz

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Last week, the first regional winners of the International Woolmark Prize were named in the U.S., Europe, and China; following the upcoming announcements of the Australian and Indian winners, the finalists will compete for the global award at London fashion week. Style.com’s Tim Blanks was on the judging panel of the European edition of the prize; he writes in with notes from the judges’ bench.


“I’m used to being judged, not judging,” sighed Alber Elbaz more than once during Thursday’s European heat of the International Woolmark Prize. The 21 designers from 11 countries that Elbaz and his co-judges—fellow designers Giles Deacon and Dean and Dan Caten; Vogue editors Alexandra Shulman and Christiane Arp; and me as the Sancho Panza of the posse—were assessing represented the usual apples-and-oranges challenge of all such contests, but at least the criteria were crystal clear so it was relatively straightforward to edit them down to a final handful. And then Twelve Angry Men Syndrome kicked in, with occasionally heated debate among jury members. Passionately argued positions dissolved, allegiances shifted, wine flowed (for at least one juror), but it was finally those closely studied criteria that carried Belgium’s Christian Wijnants (left, with Albaz)—at 34, almost a veteran in this context—to the top of the heap with a capsule collection of knit dresses that matched expert technique to an inspired color sense. He’ll face off against Sophie Théallet (U.S.A.), Ban Xiao Xue (China), and yet-to-be-announced designers from Australia and India at the grand finale during London fashion week in February.

For me, the real pleasure of the day was watching Elbaz rise to his responsibilities. Less judge than mentor, he gave all sorts of subtle insights into his own working methods. Turkey’s Ipek Arnas showed a dress with a complex intarsia covering its front. Too in-your-face banal for Elbaz. He advised the designer to reverse the dress, and presto! It took on an entirely different personality. “Now there is a surprise,” he said, satisfied. Elbaz was seduced by the ingenious top half of J.W. Anderson’s outfit, but less taken with the skirt, so he asked to see it just with the underlying crinoline. The result was scarcely as its creator had intended, but that top truly came into its own.

“When you finish a collection, do you love it the next day or hate it?” Elbaz asked a young Italian duo. He was clearly speaking from experience, so it wasn’t surprising that he confessed to being nonplussed by the unambiguously upbeat answers he got to his probing questions, at least in the initial stages of the judging process. “Unhappiness is the motor to move things forward,” Elbaz offered. Take this to heart, designers of the future: Dissatisfaction is an asset.

Photo: Courtesy of Woolmarkprize.com