Dialogue with Asia: Hugo Boss
Taiwanese-Canadian-American creative director Jason Wu represents an Asian mindset at Germany's fashion power house. For our Asian special he answered our questions
Achtung Mode: After taking over the artistic direction at Hugo Boss, you said that there is not really much in Germany from a fashion point of view. Is that still correct?
Jason Wu: I think there’s an aesthetic in Germany that’s very applicable to fashion. It’s not necessarily expressed through clothing, but when you look at the rigor and precision, Modernist art and architecture and the way those aesthetics are being influenced, for instance when it comes to product design, it’s really simple to link that with clothing.
AM: So, does something like “German fashion” actually exist?
JW: Of course. I believe that the heritage of Hugo Boss really relates to what German fashion represents. You can relate the work of Jil Sander to a German fashion aesthetic, too – especially her collections from the 1990s that helped cement the idea of minimalism in the world’s consciousness. I’m not sure if German fashion is defined by minimalism today – I don’t think Hugo Boss is either. What German fashion and Boss stand for are rather the ideas of precision, perfection, incredible finish, and amazing technologies creating a new kind of industrial couture.
AM: Your bio tells the story of a Taiwanese-Canadian-American fashion wunderkind. How is the story of an over 90-year-old German garment specialist to be told?
JW: I think the DNA of Boss lies in menswear. The strategy for me has always been to be true to the trademarks of Boss but to translate them – both for today, and for women. I am a young designer, and my own label is a young brand. It’s so fascinating for me to go back into the archives of Boss, into 90 years of menswear, and try to reimagine these clothes for today’s women.
AM: What do you like most about being and working in Metzingen?
JW: The landscape and surroundings are extraordinary – it’s the absolute heart of Hugo Boss. The technical possibilities of the Boss studio are also amazing. As a creative, being able to work with the kind of specialized manufacturing that Boss has is incredible. I’ve often worked with hand-embroidery and beading in my own label, but the Boss studio really opened my eyes to what machinery can do in fashion, the effects it can achieve. It really is a different kind of couture.
AM: Let’s think of nationality clichés. As a child of Taiwanese parents, do you see any similarities between Taiwanese and German behavior?
JW: There is definitely an ambition – a striving to be the best and achieve everything you can. But I suspect that’s true of parents anywhere in the world! And of ambitious children, too.
AM: Our special is called German-Asian Dialogue – according to you, in which way do both speak the same language?
JW: I feel the cultural exchange between the East and the West has always been incredibly important. Each one influences the other, and you see reflections of both of them in my work, which is in a way my design language. Asia for me is something very feminine and delicate, the amazing intricate details and embellishments that I use, both for my own label and for Boss womenswear, and the softness of silks, chiffons and organzas. For instance, we shredded the edges of the spring suiting to get a sense of that lightness into the otherwise strict tailoring. That’s on the other hand what Germany represents: that excellence in tailoring, in constructing real “architectural” clothes.
AM: Although Europe is still the key market for Boss, Asia will become even more important in the future. What challenges do you currently face, both on the European and Asian market?
JW: Now that fashion has widened into a truly global business, there will always be challenges when we face different markets – financial aspects, changing tastes, cultural and environmental demands. Our figures show that Europe was a strong area of solid growth, whereas the situation in Asia has been particularly challenging in 2015, reflected across luxury as a whole.
AM: You have gained massive exposure by dressing the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. What German stateswoman would you love to see in one of your looks?
JW: Angela Merkel. She has been voted ten years in a row as the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. Last year she was also TIME magazine’s person of the year – the first ever woman. Really, there’s no contest!
AM: Boss and the German soccer team go hand in hand. Do you only have a passion for fashion – or for soccer, too?
JW: I think it’s tough to work in a German company and not be bitten by the soccer bug a little!
This article first appeared in Achtung issue 31, March 2016