Have you ever been just breezing through a book, when the seventh or eighth little ideal detail piques you and you must flip to the author bio with unruly curiosity, like, OK, that's it, you babe: Who the hell are you?! Or played a song on repeat while also searching for every possible outfit combination the musician has worn in public, like, How! How is it possible for one person to be this way!! VICE's new interview series, “How Are You So Hot?” is a thirsty journey into the minds of these kinds of fascinating people, covering their specific talents, peculiar charismas, and every other thing we want to copy about them.
Jason Wu’s creations—his cocktail dresses, his seen-round-the-world gowns for Michelle Obama, his lipstick in the most sublime shade of plum, his yuzu Bloody Mary—share the designer’s impeccable sense of color and soft sophistication, but what comes across most is Wu’s taste for romance. His designs all have a kinda flirtatious quality—not in a cheeseball way, but in the way of someone who is totally self-possessed but also wants to play ball and have fun. And they want you to have fun too! As an artist who looks to the world to distill its beauty and feed beauty right back to it, Wu is naturally effusive, as we discovered when we asked him: How are you so hot?
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
VICE: What did you think was hot 10 years ago?
JASON WU: I used to love big muscle guys. I’m not as into that anymore. In my 30s, I’m more into… well, my husband is not a bodybuilder-looking guy! That’s changed. It was a surprise to change! You grow up.
What’s something you fell in love with for the first time recently, and what do you love about it?
I recently fell in love with my pizza stone. I finally bought one over the quarantine. It makes the crust so much crisper. I make every single kind of pizza. I did one with mozzarella, parmesan, prosciutto, and arugula. That was very, very chef-like of me.
I used to cook, but not every single meal. Then I had this time at night all of a sudden, with no socializing. I started a food diary: Mr. Wu Eats. I bought every kitchen gadget there was. I made my own starter for sourdough—I got pro tips from Kate Bosworth; she and her husband are so good at baking sourdough. It’s daunting, like feeding a small child.
Is there a color that you’re newly falling in love with? Or becoming loyal to again?
Red… but I didn’t fall out of love with red. I like a traditional lipstick red—really beautiful, scarlet red. Something I use so often in my collections: Red and fuchsia together is a color combination that is really coming back to me now. It’s so chic. I love it in clothes, but I love a red accent in general: in furniture, food. The other day, I made a pot of coq au vin; I haven’t made that since I was in France when I was, like, 17. There’s a bottle of red wine in there. I embrace all shades of red, in all formats.
What did you keep private in the past that you don’t anymore?
So much! I used to keep less-than-perfect moments private. Funny things. Now, my Instagram stories are literally my random diaries. Gibberish! It’s not always serious.
What accessory (literal or not) do you adopt for a fresh feeling of hotness?
Probably a facial spray. It’s a wake-me-up-in-the-middle-of-the-day thing. I used to use one by Caudalie; I have Jason Wu ones now [at Jason Wu Beauty]. I love the jasmine. My first fragrance was jasmine, as well. It’s a flower I grew up with. My dad had a lot of jasmine in our garden. It makes me feel at home, especially this year, when I haven’t been able to see my family.
What’s something you want to fall in love with, looking ahead?
Immediately ahead, I want to fall in love with my Peloton. We’re bonding slowly. I don’t do classes, I just watch TV shows while doing it. Literally every single Food Network show or South Park, back-to-back episodes.
When do you feel most like yourself?
When I’m with my friends, hanging out. There’s no pretense, no pressure, we laugh. One thing we’ve done lately is play Monopoly again.
Do you have a go-to strategy?
Negotiation! Negotiation in the early stage, always.
What’s your token?
I usually do the thimble. I sew, you know: The thimble is good for me. Also, it’s really funny: We have different versions. My friend, Tina Leung, she loves novelty Monopoly, so we have the Hello Kitty and also the Sailor Moon version. They’re more confusing.
When do you feel least like yourself, but it’s exciting?
When I have to present something. Especially when I was a younger designer, I felt like I needed to be more serious, much more stern, much more mysterious. Like I needed to act like a fashion designer, at least in public. I don’t know if I behave that well anymore. Like, at the Met Ball, I was super nervous. Inside, I felt like I had to behave super properly and posh. In actuality, I just wanted a tequila shot!
What’s your favorite skill that we don’t know you have?
I’m a therapist to most of my friends, I should start charging for that. People like to talk to me when they’re upset. My closest friends call me Mama Wu.
I know you used to doodle during meetings—what’s your doodling life like recently?
I still doodle all the time now, just on Zoom meetings. It’s even easier to hide. I love drawing faces, especially eyes. I always draw very glamorous women’s faces. Two years ago, I stopped using notebooks. There’s so much printing paper in my office, so I clip together wasted paper, and that becomes my notebook. I’m becoming my mom! I yell at everyone for not turning off the lights or a wet kitchen sink, things of that nature. I’m like, “You guys are so wasteful with this paper! You guys print and print and print!”
What skill or talent in other people are you particularly allured by?
I always find it incredible that someone can build a wardrobe or a table. I’m good at making clothes, I do a lot with my hands. At school, I was always terrible at woodwork. I’m personally afraid of saws. The heaviest-duty things I use are an iron and sewing machine.
What appetites do you indulge, and what do you regulate?
I indulge in sleep. On weekends especially I could sleep for 15 hours, I’m like a winter bear. There are so many things I need to regulate, like more than two martinis in a sitting. I could do six.
What’s your martini order?
It’s just vodka straight up, no vermouth, with olive juice. Literally pure alcohol.
Exactly. And in a nice glass.
What’s gone out of fashion that would you like to reclaim into hotness?
Things without stretch. Trust me, I love comfort, but I love the idea of dressing up. Dressing up is out of fashion. I’m missing the moment of a ball of some sort: the glamor of it all. Even before the pandemic, athleisure had become the regular uniform. Even though I’m very casual most days, I love the idea of dressing up just for the sake of it. One of my favorite things is putting on a black suit, a proper tuxedo. It’s just sharp, it’s put-together. I feel empowered, my posture is different. After all this, I’m just going to wear black tie on day one, and that’s it! I’m going to wear it to work. Let’s see if I can single-handedly start a trend.
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