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Jason Wu Talks New Contemporary Line

BoF can exclusively reveal the strategy behind Grey, Jason Wu's new 'day-oriented' advanced contemporary collection.
Grey Jason Wu Fall 2016 collection | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Lauren Sherman

NEW YORK, United States — With nearly 10 years of business under his belt, Jason Wu is ready to expand his universe with a new advanced contemporary line: Grey. "If you look back at my older collections, there were slightly girlier, casual elements," said the designer at the new label's showroom, an expansive Hunt Slonem bunny painting propped up behind him. "That's where Grey came from; the more playful elements."

The four-season collection, priced between $250 for a black henley pullover and $1,395 for a prettified navy-and-hunter green parka, will hit the sales floors of retailers including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman — as well as Greyjasonwu.com — on June 15. Key looks include a forest green double-satin cocktail dress ($695), crepe pleated pants in bone ($450) and a wool flannel popover dress with a silk underlay ($595) in the line's eponymous shade. "Everyone who knows me knows that grey is my favourite colour," he said of the moniker. "And 'ey' is more chic."

Wu is already establishing specific design codes for Grey, including topstitching details, asymmetrical pockets and tipping on the knitwear. “It’s subliminal branding,” he continued. “Non-branding.” He also plans on launching artist collaborations — something he’s done a few times in the past — regularly. First up is Slonem, whose brushstroke bunnies are printed onto silk dresses and separates. (The designer has always had a penchant for woodland animals, the owl being his namesake label's mascot.) “It’s clothes for a lot of my friends,” he said. “They can’t really afford Jason Wu. I can’t really afford Jason Wu! I was pricing out a fur coat the other day and it was $70,000.”

Lucky for Wu, the one-off coat in question has already been sold to an equally fortunate client. With Grey, he wants to reach a broader swath of consumers. “It’s much more day-oriented and Jason Wu is much more dressed up,” he said. “[Friend and actress] Diane Kruger is very much the inspiration. I think she has great off-duty style.”

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This week, Wu began posting sketches and other visuals on Grey’s newly minted Instagram account and the designer said he will host events closer to the collection's launch date in order to drum up consumer interest. BoF was offered a sneak peak at Grey's look book, which will be released in full in late May/early June. “It’s quite timely, but I do feel like with this collection and this price point that it’s very important to be driven toward consumers,” he said. “It doesn’t feel appropriate to show at Fashion Week.”

The designer, who already made Instagram news once this week thanks to his Tulum marriage to long-time partner Gustavo Rangel, said that while Grey is more gently priced than his main collection, he doesn't see it as a secondary line. Instead, he calls it a "sister" to the main line. "Overall, it's more casual. It serves a different function," he said. "But there is an elevation to the clothes and the fabrics. It's not a cheaper version of Jason Wu." (After all, prices at the main line may occasionally reach $70,000, but they start at $295 for a lace t-shirt.)

Importantly, this is not Wu’s first foray into the contemporary market. Miss Wu, a yearlong collaboration with Nordstrom, debuted at the department store in January 2013. “That was the pilot version for this,” Wu said. “It grew from that to here.” Indeed, the launch of Grey is just one element of the company’s strategy to expand the business, which sold a majority stake to the investment firm Interluxe in 2014. Jason Wu is set to launch two more categories in 2017. “The last 10 years was about an investment in the brand,” said Wu, who showed his first full ready-to-wear collection in 2006. “Now it’s about exercising the brand awareness that we’ve been able to garner and protect.”

As for managing Grey alongside his other commitments — in addition to his main collection, Wu designs Hugo Boss ready-to-wear — the designer appeared unphased. "I have three great teams and I think that's very important," he said. "Separate teams allow me to think differently."

The venture certainly reflects a unique moment in the 33-year-old Wu’s career. “I’ve grown up,” he said. “I feel very good about the direction of my brand, it’s very stable now. I’m at the point where I feel good about being able to establish this second part.”

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