It’s a big year for designer Jason Wu. Not only is he celebrating his ready-to-wear label’s 10th anniversary, but he’s also launching the brand’s very first fragrance. The 34-year-old New York-based designer, who has big fans in women like Michelle Obama, Reese Witherspoon and Diane Kruger, has no shortage of accolades. In 2010, he won the CFDA Swarovski Award for Womenswear, and last year, he was named the International Designer of Year at the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards (he was born in Taiwan, but raised in Vancouver). This fragrance marks another big step for Wu, and it’s clearly a passion project for the designer. We sat down with him to chat about his inspiration, the nostalgic notes he chose and the beautiful bottle.
You’ve worked on fragrance projects in the past with brands like Nest and Hugo Boss. Why did you decide to create one for your brand?
I’ve definitely had different experiences within the fragrance world, but this has been something I wanted to do for a long time. You can tell a lot about a person or place by the way it smells. It triggers memory, and it’s something I’ve always been infatuated with. I’ve been very active and engaged in the beauty world over the last ten years, and I felt like it was the right time for me.
Did you know what kind of fragrance you wanted to create going in to the process?
I always knew it would be a white floral, and that I didn’t want a heavy, heady fragrance. I’m a light person, and I don’t like heaviness. I like sunshine and spring. I really wanted something that felt like a little kiss—subtle but memorable. Like lilies of the valley and peonies. They’re so beautiful, and aesthetically they are one of the most beautiful flowers. And I chose bergamot, and pink peppercorn. I love pepper, and I cook with it often, so I thought pink peppercorn seemed like the right kind of edge to give a little spiciness.
Was there a note you knew you had to include?
I smelled 200 or 300 different ingredients, and there was this one note I kept reacting to. It was jasmine, and I remembered when I was growing up in Taiwan, there was jasmine growing everywhere and I would pick it with my cousin and use it as room scents. It’s not a common flower you get in an arrangement, not like roses or peonies. So it was a memory that was buried inside me, and it really did take me back. It was an emotional feeling.
What inspired you through the process?
It was really about building the ingredients that I’ve loved for the past 20 years of my life. I just went back to familiar scents, and I identified what they were. I would play with different balances, and then of course think about how they relate back to the Jason Wu woman. It had to be very sophisticated and modern, but refined and feminine. Those qualities are essential to the Jason Wu DNA, and I drew them from ingredients that I’d come into contact with over the years.
How did you decide on a design for the bottle?
My friend, architect Andre Mellone, designed the bottle. We looked at crystal decanters from the ’50s, and that’s kind of how we arrived at this design. We manufactured the bottles in Parma, Italy, and it took a lot of engineering to get them to look like thick blocks of crystal. One of the things I’ve always loved about fragrance bottles is how gorgeous they are, and you often see a bottle before you even know what it smells like. [Mellone] has such a good eye for beauty, materials and proportions. He also designed my apartment and my store in New York.
What made you want to work with Lily Aldridge for the campaign?
We’ve been friends for many, many years, and when this came up, we thought this is a perfect project for us. She’s feminine, modern, and so beautiful. But there’s still an edge, and she’s just a girl you want to be around. She reminds me of Audrey Hepburn and Bianca Jagger. With her bushy brows and brown eyes, she exemplifies so many classic beauties I looked up to. We usually see her really, really glammed up, so I wanted to strip it back and show her in a different light.
What’s next for you in the beauty world?
More beauty is something that is definitely in my future, but not right now. Right now I want to really concentrate on the fragrance and establishing that. But this is definitely not my last beauty project. Beauty is something I’ve been very vocal about. I love it, I want to do it, and it’s an important part of all my shows. So this is just the beginning.