“First of all, how good-looking is my wife?” asked President Barack Obama at the first-ever Neighborhood Inaugural Ball. The First Lady dazzled millions wearing a sparkling one-shoulder creation by emerging New York designer Jason Wu.
As Told to Qianna Smith
A new design star, Jason Wu, 26, launched his collection in 2006. Mrs. Obama was first seen wearing a Wu design when she appeared with the President last November on a Barbara Walters special.
“She makes her own rules and that’s what’s so impressive about her,” says Jason Wu of the First Lady’s fashion sense.
The only instructions Jason Wu was given when creating the gown for the First Lady was that it had to “sparkle”. Wu was commissioned by the Chicago boutique Ikram, which didn’t tell him he was designing for the history-making event.
Wu played close attention to detail when designing the long, flowing one-shoulder gown. The ruched bodice and full skirt accentuated her tall frame, while the sparkling beads added a touch of romance. The creation will be donated to the Smithsonian Museum.
“I wanted to design and that’s all I ever wanted to do, and I’m doing it,” says Wu at his West 37th Street Studio in New York City.
Wu attended New York’s prestigious Parsons School of Design and coincidentally interned with Narciso Rodriguez, another fashion favorite of Mrs. Obama. The V-Neck dress pictured is a look from Wu’s spring 2009 collection.
“I want my clothes to make women feel beautiful and I embrace that. I want to bring truly beautifully made clothes back,” shares Wu.
The designer won’t reveal the price of the First Lady’s gown, but the evening gowns in Wu’s spring collection retail on average from $2,900 to $4,700.
“I wanted [Mrs. Obama’s] dress to be powerful and feminine. It had to be striking and it had to represent hope, and white is like a clean slate,” recalls Wu.
Since Mrs. Obama emerged on the international fashion radar she has often endorsed new design houses rather than well-known brands. “She’s making a political statement through what she wears and that’s amazing. She is supporting young designers and the future of fashion,” says Wu.
Not a label-loving man, Jason Wu dishes to ESSENCE.com Fashion Editor Qianna Smith that, “It’s not about having a designer brand and it’s not about how much anything costs. It’s about having things you can keep over the years that you are going to love in 20 years.”
You can recognize a Jason Wu design by the bodice. This off-white tulle gown from his spring collection embodies the elegant simplicity of his inaugural design. The off-the-shoulder white dress that the First Lady wore was embellished with white organza and tons of Swarovski crystals.
The man of the moment, Jason Wu received dozens of calls and text messages from friends and family congratulating him when the First Lady was seen at the inaugural ball. One noteworthy message was from actress and Neighborhood Ball attendee Kerry Washington: “I’m looking at the dress and loving it.”
“It’s hard to put it into words how I felt about it. The whole experience was exhilarating. The whole thing is bigger than me; it’s bigger than anything I could have ever hoped for.”