Four years ago, Jason Wu was one of many struggling New York designers working hard to get his beautifully made, thoughtfully designed clothes noticed. Then the 2009 inauguration happened. Michelle Obama wore his white, one-shoulder, grecian-style gown. And Wu became a household name over night.
Wu, who is now 30, prefers not to discuss the inauguration these days, focusing on what's ahead instead. When I interviewed him in 2011, he had already moved on. "I gave myself 24 hours to celebrate because I needed to plan my next act," he told me then. "And that’s why we’ve really been able to be successful and go from a young designer to a larger brand in two years. It’s very important, because in an industry with so much flash, whenever there’s any doubt I go back to why I got into fashion in the first place. I literally just love the craft of it. I love making clothes."
But people can't stop talking about the power of that dress—and with reason. In anticipation of Barack Obama's second inauguration on Monday, we've tracked the major moments in Wu's career, from the 2009 inauguration to today. Click through to watch his story unfold.
January 2009: The dress. The reviews weren't all raves, but when I interviewed Hamish Bowles the next day, his words carried the most weight: “Like Mrs. Obama herself, the choice was modern, stylish and brimming with optimism," he said.
January 2009: The dolls. Just a day after the inauguration, Fashionista reports that Wu moonlighted as the creative director for Integrity toys, a line a of high-end dolls, from age 17.
February 2009: Net-a-Porter. The e-commerce site begins carrying Wu's collection for the first time.
September 2009: Eyewear. Wu's first foray into accessories? Sunglasses and spectacles, shown on his Spring 2010 runway.
October 2009: CFDA Status. The designer, who was named a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist in 2008, becomes a member of the prestigious organization.
November 2009: Tse Comes A-Calling. Wu teams up with knitwear label Tse on a capsule collection.
June 2010: CFDA Swarovski Award. He wins for womenswear, thus cementing his status in American fashion's upper echelon.
September 2010: Handbags and shoes. Wu expands his collection to include handbags and shoes, an important step to ensure the financial health of any brand. The company's owl mascot, Miss Wu, makes an appearance on many of the bags.
September 2010: Nail polish. The designer collaborates with CND on a collection. The limited edition box set sells briskly.
June 2011: E-commerce. The relaunched site features a blog, along with the ability to purchase his line of handbags.
July 2012: Miss Wu. The designer launches Miss Wu, a contemporary line with a lower price point than his regular collection, and gives Fashionista a first look.