It’s difficult to gauge the impact that Michelle Obama’s Inauguration wardrobe choices could have on the careers of the respective designers. Firstly Isabel Toledo, who designed the lemongrass wool lace shift dress and coat worn to Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony. Then Jason Wu, who created the one-shouldered ivory gown in which Obama dazzled later that evening. In the just-screened interview, below, from MSNBC’s Today show, Cuban American Toledo, a veteran of 25 years in the US fashion business, reveals that people started lining up outside her studio almost the minute the news of the dress broke (a spring version of which will reportedly hit Barneys in March for US$1500). With his gown now etched in history and destined for the Smithsonian Institute, the significance for Wu in particular seems almost immeasurable. While a designer could wait their entire career for the opportunity to design an Inauguration ballgown, the former Narciso Rodriguez intern has pulled off the feat at the age of 26, with a label that is just three years old (and apparently with a legup from US Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley, who hooked Wu up with Obama). The Obama coup is a career highlight for the Taipei-born and Vancouver- and Connecticut-raised designer – and that's a career, interestingly, which already spans a decade and covers some unorthodox ground.
At the age of 16, whilst still in boarding school, Wu began freelancing for the US company Integrity Toys and created his own line of dolls.
Now sold at FAO Schwartz and reportedly considered collectors' items, Wu’s dolls include the camp Fashion Royalty line of vinyl divas (pictured at the top of this post). In some of their sexier Wu outfits, the dolls look like they are dressed as backing singers in a Beyoncé or Madonna music video clip.
Far more suited to a First Lady of course are Wu’s fashion collections proper. Not including Tuesday night's gown, Michelle Obama reportedly already purchased four dresses from Wu's SS09 range.
Wu told the Wall Street Journal that the Inaugural ballgown “can’t be replicated - it will never appear in any form in my collection. It has to be special.”
That said however, frockwriter spotted the following two gowns in Wu's Resort 2009 collection:
jason wu resort 09/style.com
The designs bear a marked resemblance to Obama’s Inaugural gown – minus of course the silk chiffon flower and Swarovski crystal embellishments:
Anyhow, here's the Today vid: