EXCLUSIVE: Jason Wu Womenswear A/W12

Dazed joined the designer at the last fitting session before his Friday show in New York

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Ahead of his Friday show, the Parsons graduate discusses his influences this season – Chinese warriors, Hollywood shoulders and the politics of power dressing – and what makes a strong woman...

The last iteration was a 40's Hollywood version of Chinese: 'Shanghai Express', Anna Mae Wong, Marlene Dietrich; the very fantastical side of things

Dazed Digital: Let's talk about what you've been looking at to prepare for this collection.
Jason Wu: I've been looking at the three different iterations of Chinese, to reference three major archetypes of Chinese interpretation. One was the Mao jacket: military, super strong, an extension of Warrior with military green. Another was the Qing Dynasty, with the beautiful Chinese brocades, Emperors and Empresses and the furs. The last iteration was a 40's Hollywood version of Chinese: 'Shanghai Express', Anna Mae Wong, Marlene Dietrich; the very fantastical side of things. They all get interwoven together into one collection that I sort of call Urban Warrior Woman. It's a much stronger character than I've ever done before.

DD: In what way?
Jason Wu: There's a sense of elegant aggression in this collection that I guess is just what I feel right now, and there is definitely a masculine attitude, especially in the military uniform. Throughout the collection are a lot of strong shoulders and that's both reflecting the military aspect, with epaulettes, and also like the Dietrichesque, Schiaparelli-strong 1940's shoulders.

It seems like a big subject to tackle but it also seems like something I've been learning about since I was a little boy; it all came back. it became quite a personal collection. I travel to Asia a lot, but I hadn't been to Taiwan, where I grew up, for a really long time. Ever since I was a designer, actually, until I went last year. My dad took me to a King Dynasty warrior exhibit of all their costumes. Lots of studs, all these capes and capelets, armour studs and metal. Lots of strong shoulders and beautiful Chinese brogues.

DD: What do you think makes them so powerful?
Jason Wu: I think that the Empresses were always very powerful in Chinese history, and there's a sense of power when it comes to that kind of gear. We sometimes call clothes gear but in this case it's really about putting strong clothing on strong shoulders, which marks the aggressive side. You'll see a look that's like a 40's jacket gown: structured jacket mixed with a beautiful velvet drapey skirt.

The idea of that mixing is where I found the 40's Marlene Dietrich reference very relevant and completely appropriate for this collection. If you think of a strong woman in Hollywood, think no further than Dietrich. She's the one; she's that quintessential character of a woman who defines Hollywood glamour.

DD: Who would you put in that category now?
Jason Wu: Tilda Swinton. Helen Mirren is one, I think Cate Blanchett is another.

DD: Do you come from a family of power dressers?
Jason Wu: I do, I'm just thinking now about my mom in the 80's with her shoulder pads. I think women look to powerful clothes when they want to feel a certain way and I think this collection is a manifestation of that.

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