Behind the Scenes

Bright Future

What Jason Wu did in Seattle: sipped tea, talked shop, and introduced us to his sunglasses

By Laura Cassidy April 19, 2010

The thing about meeting at Caffe Stella/the Diller Room in the sweet spot of 4pm is that you can have a martini or an herbal tea.

But only if you’re not on your iPhone solving one of the four million snafus that arise on any given day. If and when that happens, a double Americano and Plymouth gin seem equally sort of whatever. Jason Wu, looking every inch the part of an Important Young Designer in a lean suit (Prada? Dior?) topped off with an army jacket, asked for green tea, and John Murphy, Wu’s global director of sales, opted for caffeine after he ended the first of what I eventually inferred was a series of model emergencies.

It’s safe to say that things for the buzzed-about designer and his Wu Team — Murphy told me that’s what they call themselves — have gotten significantly nuttier ever since Michelle Obama walked into the Inaugural Ball in Wu’s one-shoulder white dress. But after putting the phone away and taking a hit of Seattle coffee, Murphy reported that working with Jason is a dream job. And this from a man who was at the right hand of Isaac Mizrahi, Bill Blass, and others in recent decades. Wu may be young (27), but he’s serious, and seriously talented.

On the occasion of our Diller Room date, the pair had just wrapped up a super successful (five figures were mentioned) trunk show featuring this fall’s looks on Nordstrom’s second floor. Nutty often comes with an up side.

Phones were out again by the time our backsides hit the booth bench, and then put away and then taken out again, but no one seemed too wrinkled about any of it. On my end, catching conversations peppered with names like Karlie and Liu just made the afternoon more interesting.

A short list of topics discussed:

-What consumers want (answer: something extra; delivered via couture-like details on sweet but directional cocktail frocks, yes, but it also means Wu, ducking into Downtown dressing rooms with you)

-The importance of the traveling designer (Murphy says Blass traveled extensively in his 80s prime, and Wu imagined with a grin his own tricked-out tour bus)

-The Taiwan-born style-maker’s porcelain complexion (you can’t not wonder; he credits "Shiseido’s line for men)

-The guess-the-dress Michelle Obama game (they get emailed images just about every day from the media asking, "Is this yours?")

-SAM Shop (it was quickly established that we needed to get there)

-Blogging (essential: his cool, young assistant heads up the efforts at The Jason Wu Blog)

-Future customers and aspirational entry points (perhaps owing to his proximity to them, Wu keeps young, potential clients in mind; the trunk show crowd included many student designers and those who did not actually contribute to the sales total)

And then Wu turning sharply to his left (that was me) and announced, "Did you know we do sunglasses?"

To which I could only reply, "Did you know that Seattle practically eats sunglasses for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?"

He did not, but was happy to hear me knock around the is-it-folklore-or-is-it-fact tidbit about Seattle buying more shades than any other city. Apparently, starlet Diane Kruger pretty much launched the line by wearing a pair out and about but we’re not far behind; Downtown Nordstrom is among the first in the country to put Wu’s new line of eyewear on the shelves.

See them in the slideshow here, then shop them in-store, and maybe think about working your way up to something you can wear, you know, whatever the weather.

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