My Past, Present & Future — In Outfits

Our past shapes our present, which grows into our future. That’s pretty much true for all of us, whether you take a straightforward path through life or your road’s a little more roundabout.
Take Jessica Wu. She may have stuck out as a style-obsessed middle schooler growing up in a laid-back West Coast beach town. But the playful confidence and strong visual sense she developed there are the keys to success in her current life as a stylist, model, and e-commerce director for a growing womenswear brand. And the experience and insights she’s gaining in the industry now are paving her path to an even more impressive future.
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In partnership with ALDO, we spoke with Jessica about the milestones that made her who she is today, how she made a home for herself in the fashion industry, where she’s going next, and what she wore along the way.
Join us as we look back — and forward — with a woman who has come a long way and is on the verge of even bigger things.
So I heard a rumor that you were a trendsetter back in middle school.
“My heels! I was obsessed with them in middle school. I grew up in a beach town where everyone wore flip-flops and casual surfwear every day. I’d developed an interest in fashion and decided I needed to ‘invest’ in some cool footwear. For some reason, I was dead set on wearing heels to middle school. I begged my mom to let me buy these wedge ankle boots, and I wore them with red denim cutoffs and a striped blouse. Sure enough, a few weeks later, other girls started wearing wedges to class.”
What made you start experimenting with fashion?
“Discovering my aunt’s stash of Vogue magazines changed everything. Suddenly I was seeing girls not much older than me, styled in a really out-there way. I realized, Hey, this isn’t too difficult — so naturally I went into my mom’s closet, stole a bunch of things, and started styling myself!”
Middle school can be a tricky time to stick out. Did you ever get a negative reaction?
“My style never got a negative reaction — people were mostly just confused! I was never the ‘popular girl’ in high school, but a lot of people knew me because of how I dressed. I was that girl who always dressed crazy, wore tailored shorts and super-high heels to school, and struggled down the hallway [laughs]. But I didn’t care; I was into being different and dressing for myself. Between that and sharing outfits online, style became my way of connecting with people.”
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So when did you make the connection that fashion was something you wanted to do as a career?
“From an early age, I knew I wanted to do something creative, but I wasn’t initially sure if I wanted to be a fashion designer or interior designer. By high school, I was starting to narrow it down to fashion — I had a blog, and I started to get some opportunities locally, modeling for stores in my hometown.”
Were you like, “I’m major, I’ve arrived!”
“I was so excited, but the day of my first shoot I was super sick and you can totally tell in the pictures. So I’d done some modeling in high school, but I didn’t have that ‘this is real’ moment until I saw my face on a billboard last year. That was when it clicked for me.”
What brought you all the way from your beach town to New York?
“I went to FIT for advertising and marketing, and since it’s a fashion school, I continued soaking up knowledge about the industry — I used to spend hours researching designers, models, photographers. At FIT, I met my friend Peter Do and started styling his collections and eventually getting freelance styling work.”
I always remember the “lucky shoes” I wore to interview at Refinery29, which was my first-ever writing job. Do you remember yours?
“I do — I was obsessed with these black pointy ankle boots with two side zippers and a little heel. I didn’t land my first fashion interview wearing them, but I did get a job in them eventually, because I wore them to literally every interview — and everywhere else I went my first year in New York!”
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So you’re now e-commerce director for Peter Do. What’s a typical day like for you?
“I’m always juggling 20 different things at once. At Peter Do, we’re a really small team, but the brand is growing fast, so we all do a little of everything. E-commerce direction is a lot, because as soon as one season is done, it’s time to start the next one. Plus, in addition to those duties, I do anything from answering emails to making sure the website’s updated to customer service. It’s intense, but we all work together really harmoniously and have a shared mission to build this brand. Seeing how it’s grown already and that vision of where we see it going in the future keep us going through it all — it’s about passion.”
How do you approach getting dressed for a day that could take you anywhere?
“I’m running around constantly, so comfort and ease are priorities — but I have some tricks to make it cute. My go-to outfit is a black miniskirt with a plain white T-shirt or blousy button-up, hoop earrings, and a huge tote bag. Every girl in New York needs a good tote! And a reliable pair of sneakers is crucial — I need something flat with a cushion because styling a shoot means running all around the city to different showrooms, picking up clothes, taking them to set, steaming everything, and dressing models all day. It gets pretty crazy, so I need to stay mobile and ready for anything.”
So where do you see your career going from here?
“At Peter Do, I see my role diversifying as we grow over the next few years. I’m excited to take on new challenges, oversee future shoots and runway-show production. I’m also working to launch an online platform called Period Space, created for women to talk about their periods and reproductive health. My ultimate goal is for the organization to link with related charities to give back to girls and women in need around the world.”
That’s incredible — so moving into boss mode?
“Maybe eventually! Since announcing it, I've had about 50 people reach out to me as potential contributors and collaborators, which has been amazing. Ultimately, I’d love to open up an intergenerational conversation about these taboo topics and contribute to making diversity and acceptance the standard.”
Do you think that’s improving?
“The front end of fashion, especially modeling, is thankfully becoming so much more diverse. There’s a growing understanding that not everyone needs to be the standard 5-foot-9 runway model, and diversity brings a fresh visual perspective and new stories to the table. We still have a long way to go, but I hope I can be a small part of that change.”
Was that something you felt like you had growing up?
“Not as much, but I’m so happy the sense of possibility is opening up. After my Glossier ads came out, I had so many young Asian girls message me saying how much it mattered to them to see someone who looks like them in a campaign. That made me feel really good — I think it represents new possibilities.”
Is there an overarching lesson you feel like you’ve learned?
“I think self-confidence is everything. Knowing yourself and feeling confident in what you have to offer is key. And honestly, just being yourself and being kind is so important. There’s a cliché that kindness is rare in this industry, but on so many sets I’ve been lucky to truly connect with people. It’s not a mean-girl vibe. Now it’s cool to be passionate about your work, open, to let what’s unique about you show.”
So where do you go from here?
“Everything about my fashion career, from seventh grade until now, has been about community, fostering a sense of communication between people, and learning about other people’s perspectives. That’s something really important to take with me into the future because fashion is always collaborative. I genuinely love getting to know people, so I hope to continue having various creative roles, exploring new areas of the industry, and staying interested in people’s lives, their passions, and their causes.”

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