Style Conversation: Why Jason Wu Thinks Loyalty Is The Key To Success In Fashion
In the sometimes-austere world of fashion, a good friend—especially one who doesn’t take him- or herself too seriously—is priceless. Jason Wu and Jacquelyn Jablonski, who met in 2010 the way most designers meet models—at a runway show—do a pretty good job making each other laugh. “Jacquelyn is one of the most elegant girls I know,” says Wu, who launched his brand in 2006 at the tender age of 23. “She’s also really cool and has a great sense of humor.” Jablonski, unsurprisingly, echoes Wu’s sentiments. “Jason makes me feel chic,” says the successful model, whose breakout season was fall 2010, when she walked 31 runways at New York Fashion Week. “I love doing his shows because we end up hanging out at the fitting and chatting.” One thing is for certain: They’re not afraid to tease each other, as witnessed at Wu’s Manhattan studio.
Jacquelyn Jablonski: During my first few seasons, when we were just getting to know each other, you’d always make a joke about me being from New Jersey.
Jason Wu: I don’t think you were very amused!
JJ: I was just super-shy. I didn’t want to say the wrong things. I hardly talked.
JW: What did you think of the industry back then? Were you just like, “Who are these people?” Did you know designers? Because some girls come in not knowing anything, and some girls come in knowing everything.
JJ: I knew a few designer names from advertising and magazines. And I learned I had been pronouncing them all wrong my whole life.
JJ: I remember hearing other models talk about going to a casting for Givenchy, and I was like, “What are they saying?” And then I realized and was like, “Oh, the Give-in-chee one.” I had been calling it Give-in-chee the whole time. I was shocked. My agency educated me a little bit about the big names, and I recognized some of the faces from magazines. Still, you know, you’re just kind of thrown into the mix.
JW: That’s when we met, and you’ve been in all of my shows ever since, except for one. You and Hanne Gaby Odiele are the two models like that, and I always have an outfit in mind for you two. And it’s great because we’re also all friends.
JJ: Yeah, we all jump around together backstage.
JW: It’s just nice to have a group of girls that really inspire you to be around every season.
JJ: I’m still trying to figure out how you do it—continue to be inspired every season. I don’t know how any designer does it—with spring, fall, resort and pre-fall. And now you’re doing Hugo Boss, too. It’s crazy! How do you do it, Jason?
JW: It’s what I love to do. You have to love it, or else it’s a lot of work. It’s about being creative all the time and being able to work with a lot of different people. It’s so important to have a team that you really trust to work with—that makes it easier. It doesn’t feel like I have to start all over every season. I’m building off the last collection and the one before that. It’s an evolution. It’s fun to see that happen. I thrive on that process.
JJ: What inspired you this season?
JW: Fall is about these romantic, beautiful, dark colors. A kind of flustered beauty. A lot of the clothes are embroidered with little beads. It was really about a more subtle take on embellishment than what I’ve done before, but just as much of a glamorous and powerful woman as I’ve always designed for.
JJ: What I love about your clothes is that they make you feel elegant, like a woman. When you walk in them, you have better posture. Like what I’m wearing today—it’s really chic and luxurious, but I don’t feel overdressed.
JW: Your look today is a good example of the direction we were going for fall. We went more sports-inspired than ever before but also used more elevated materials. I call it North Face Couture.
JJ: So we’ve talked about my first impressions of the industry—what about yours? What’s surprised you the most since starting out?
JW: I don’t know if it’s really surprising, but the amount of change is much more than I ever expected. But what’s great about it is that even though fashion can be very dismissive of last season, a lot of the people in the industry go way back. People are really quite loyal in an industry that, on the surface, is quite fickle.
JJ: Yeah, it’s nice when you can find those people who you can build relationships with. Because it’s tough. In the beginning, I thought it would be really glamorous, working in fashion. But it’s actually quite hard. You don’t even know half the stuff that goes on backstage.