An Interview with Jason Wu & LACMA’s Sharon Takeda

Photo by: Buddy Bleckley courtesy of MADWORKSHOP

Jason Wu, the iconic designer known for his elegant gowns worn by former First Lady Michelle Obama, Actresses Camilla Belle, Diane Kruger and many more collaborated with Mary and David Martin’s MADWORKSHOP Foundation to mentor 15 students from Otis College of Art and Design in association with the Fashion Curator of LACMA, Sharon Takeda. The students had the opportunity to visit the fashion and textile archives of LACMA’s vast collection, exploring pieces by famed costume designer Adrian, Comme des Garcons and many others. LACMA hosted Jason for a private cocktail reception followed by a public Conversation with Sharon Takeda at LACMA’s Bing Theater.

Mary and David Martin’s MADWORKSHOP which began this fall examines the history and symbolism of the uniform from the 40s and 50s and culminates with a runway show in May 2019 by the student designers and their Ready-to-Wear collections. Collaborating with Fashion Curator of LACMA, Sharon Takeda was key, says Jason as “I was very happy that Sharon allowed us to see the archives because my main goal was to get these students the ability to see the clothes up close. It’s very different than seeing it on a search engine. For those students in the class interested in textiles, they have to see the clothes in person and not everyone has access to that. To be frank, in the internet age not a lot of people do research outside of the internet.” Continuing to say that “what we do today all comes from what our predecessors have done in the past, there’s a frame of reference. Often people don’t acknowledge that so much anymore. I think its very important to acknowledge and learn from the past because without the past we can’t create the future.”

Photo by: Buddy Bleckley courtesy of MADWORKSHOP
Photo by: Buddy Bleckley courtesy of MADWORKSHOP
Photo by: Buddy Bleckley courtesy of MADWORKSHOP


MADWORKSHOP is a design education foundation that supports technological craftsmanship through university partnerships and an immersive fellowship program. Offering designers the ability to take their designs from idea to reality, Jason and Sharon collaborated to enhance the student’s education of historic textiles and offer guidance on the students own concepts. “Jason very much wanted the students to see real objects, real fashion textiles, and designs and get away from Pinterest and the internet” says Sharon, so “we pulled 27 pieces from our permanent collection we picked everything from traditional 19th century men’s military uniforms to a lot of examples of how contemporary designers have been inspired by historic dress.”

Learning from the past has always been part of Jason’s success, as he started from a young age designing clothes for his Barbie dolls in Taiwan, using references from his Dior Collectible Barbies. His mother saw his potential at a young age for fashion and uprooted Jason and his brother from Taiwan to Vancouver where he would have more access and less criticism for entering into the world of fashion design. Taking on jobs in high school, Jason quickly rose to the top as Art Director for Integrity Toys at only 18 where his Fashion Royalty collection became a huge success, and from his earnings allowed him to develop his own Ready-to-Wear collection from 2003 to 2006.

Becoming the first Asian-American designer to dress a First Lady (Michelle Obama) for the Inaugural Ball made Jason Wu-once a name known mostly in the fashion community-into a household name as he designed many looks for Michelle throughout Obama’s 8-year term. As Jason continues to develop the House of Wu by adding commodity products such as his own perfume in 2017, he’s also committed to teaching and mentoring those around him. “I am very inspired by the hard work and dedication of the students and I hope to educate and enrich their work through my mentorship in collaboration with the brilliant faculty at Otis,” says Jason.
Photo by: Buddy Bleckley courtesy of MADWORKSHOP

“Jason is very generous and has brought a lot of knowledge to his students, and I think it also helps that you’re closer to their ages-you’re a 21st-century designer that has had some great success, and it’s ongoing,” says Sharon Takeda. Understanding the creativity and inventiveness of many designers, especially those who created garments during the war-rationing of fabric in WWII was especially fascinating for the 15 design students, and seeing the exquisite tailoring of the designs is not something that can be understood by looking at a photograph.

Mary and David Martin’s MADWORKSHOP is aiding artist in the fashion world by offering a once in a lifetime mentorship program with visionary designer Jason Wu, and with the generosity of LACMA, has provied the designers with a fresh perspective on their work. Jason’s New York edge certainly offers a different perspective and brings the New York fashion industry to these deisgners, while Sharon Takeda and the LACMA Fashion Conservation Team have given a priceless experience to understand the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the fashion world.

All I can say is, I can’t wait to see these students collections for their runway show in May of 2019! It’s sure to be a showstopper!

Photo by: Buddy Bleckley courtesy of MADWORKSHOP
River Callaway

Senior Fashion + Beauty Editor & Photographer

River Callaway is the Senior Fashion + Beauty Editor & Photographer for The LA Fashion Magazine covering all things fashion, beauty, celebrity, events, travel and entertainment.

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