To be sure, Jason Wu is having a busy year. He’s running his own label, was tapped as artistic director for Hugo Boss women’s wear in June and launched a fast-fashion Target collection last year.
This story first appeared in the August 9, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Now he’s set his sights on another goal: color cosmetics, which the designer has created with Lancôme for a September launch during New York Fashion Week.
“I’ve always been a multitasker,” Wu said during an exclusive phone interview with WWD. “I don’t know to do it any other way. I don’t think I could be quiet or sit still for a minute. These projects keep me energized and one influences the next to the next — it’s this creative process that makes my job really fun. I’ve always thought that my abilities as a designer go further than clothes. I feel like if you can design beautiful things, you can apply that ethos to anything you design.”
Few designers go from Parsons The New School for Design to a major cosmetics deal in the space of less than a decade, but 30-year-old Wu’s star has risen quickly. Fueled in part by one of his highest-profile clients — First Lady Michelle Obama, who chose to wear his gowns for both inaugural celebrations and a Vogue cover — Wu quickly moved into a host of other collaborations and projects, including a nail polish collaboration with CND, a scented candle collection and handbags and shoes under his own label.
But it’s long been beauty that has piqued his interest. “I think makeup is one of the closest parts to fashion — it goes hand in hand in almost every single case,” said Wu. “When you have great hair and makeup, it brings out the clothes even more. This project feels very organic to me and is one of my favorite collaborations that I’ve ever done. In so many ways Lancôme shares a lot of the same DNA as my brand — it’s feminine and there’s something quite classic about it that never gets old. I see those qualities within my own designs.”
And Wu can’t wait to get his collection on counter. “It feels like a very important step for me in the beauty world, and it’s going to be an exciting new chapter for my collection and my career,” he said. “If you look back at all my shows, the beauty aspect has always been very important. I’m not a ‘no-makeup makeup’ kind of a person. There’s always a look.” He notes another reason he loves makeup: “That’s always my favorite part about my shows — hair and makeup. Because when that happens, first of all, you’re done. Or you’d better be done! It’s the magical part when you see it all come together.”
In fact, Wu used the runway in February as his testing ground for several products in his new line, including a violet eye shadow that is one of the designer’s favorites. (Clearly — it was used on every girl in the show.) “It’s one of my favorite colors,” he said. “I figured, for a sneak peek at the [Lancôme] collection, it felt like the right thing to do.”
Wu’s cosmetics collection includes 15 stockkeeping units, including three eye-shadow palettes, dark navy mascara and multiple red lipsticks and nail polish, which range in price from $15 for nail polish to $49 for a five-pan eye-shadow palette. Compacts and packaging are in Wu’s signature dove gray, with the designer’s name and the Lancôme rose prominently featured. “Every little detail has been customized and designed for this collaboration, so it feels very special and complete,” he said, adding that he’s also created transparent lace makeup bags. “I think it will stand out on the beauty floor because I don’t think anyone else is using gray for their collection right now. I think the packaging part is as special as what’s inside.”
Like the designer’s Miss Wu contemporary line, the cosmetics collection will be a Nordstrom exclusive — except in New York City, where it will be sold at Bergdorf Goodman. In total, the offering will be sold in about 120 of Lancôme’s 2,000 U.S. doors.
Officially, the offering is a limited edition, but it is likely that this could lead to additional collections. Wu said he’s already created a second collection for next year, which could move to global markets. “This one is certainly not going to be my last,” he said.
While neither Wu nor Lancôme would discuss sales projections, industry sources estimated that the first collection could do $1 million at retail in the two months it is expected to be on counter.
“This is the largest cosmetics collaboration we’ve done with an American designer,” said Silvia Galfo, senior vice president of marketing for Lancôme. Galfo noted that Nordstrom will be doing a major in-store push for the collection. “They’re a very key makeup-savvy retailer,” she said. “We think there will be a lot of excitement about this collection.”
Wu will do a post-fashion week personal appearance at Nordstrom in Seattle, he said. “I don’t think there’s any better way to learn a new market than to get on the ground and really be with the customer,” said Wu. “I’ve done a lot of [personal appearances] for my ready-to-wear collection. This will be very different because I’ll be able to reach a much wider range of customers, who may or may not wear my clothes currently. Makeup is something that’s so easy to buy into; it’s a great entry into the Jason Wu world.”
Wu acknowledges that he has more than enough to keep himself busy for the present time. “I’m working feverishly on my next collection for Lancôme. I’m working with Hugo Boss and my own ready-to-wear and growing accessories collection, with shoes and handbags. And eyewear. All in all, it’s got me pretty busy. But I think in the near future you’ll see me expand more within the projects I’m already doing.”
Of course, all this leaves little time for relaxing. “People keep asking me, ‘Where are you going on vacation?’ I keep telling them there is no vacation — I have September fashion week! August is not a relaxation month. At all.”