Jason Wu’s Assistant’s Week of Kitty Cashews, Thai Food, and Midnight Fittings

Of all the shows we've seen this week, Jason Wu's was definitely one to remember. With perfectly tailored dresses and a highly produced set, we've been wondering how it all came together. We asked assistant Elana Fishman to reveal just what the Wu team needed to churn out those fantastic frocks; Apparently, it involves lots of soft tees, snacks, and 17 hour days.
Everyone knows there's strength in numbers, but what do you do when Fashion Week is rapidly approaching, you've got the biggest runway presentation of your young career planned, and you're operating on a staff of fewer than ten? In the immortal words of RuPaul's industry-appropriate hit "Supermodel," you better work. When it comes to the all-out circus that is Fashion Week, all bets are off—and with one week to go before the unveiling of Jason's Spring 2010 show, I decided to give Refinery29 readers a behind-the-scenes peek at what really goes on at Wu HQ.
Friday, September 4
Following the previous day's marathon fitting with stylist Tina Chai, our amazing duo of tailors arrive to make alterations on the pieces that Jason decides need a tweak. One skirt gets switched from a classic A-line silhouette to a more avant-garde, sculptural tulip shape, while a tiny cap sleeve is added to a striped chiffon top. As the clothes are hemmed, pinned, and stitched directly on one of our fit models, I update Jason's bulletin board to reflect the new changes. Our board holds 30-some photo printouts that indicate the run of show. At present we're at 37 looks total, including the below:
If the photo at the upper right-hand side of the board looks a bit, well, off, that may be because it's none other than yours truly. At 10 pm the night before, our fit model had already been dismissed when Jason got a sudden burst of creative energy and decided he wanted to see an additional look—so I was on! Desperate times, desperate measures?
Later in the day, sustenance arrives in the form of a care package from the creative team at Brizo, one of Jason's longtime sponsors. Yes, those are pictures of cats taped on the individual nutrition bars and containers of cashews. Purr-fectly normal, right?
Saturday, September 5
Around 3 o' clock in the afternoon, we start trickling into the office to set up for another fitting, which is set to begin at 7 pm. As we place a large order for Thai takeout—it's gonna be a long night, folks—fit model Tati Cotliar and I try on two of the tees Jason's designed exclusively for Fashion's Night Out. The shirts are a colorful take on the paintbrush-stroke print he dreamt up for his Spring 2008 collection, and had just arrived in our studio earlier that day.
After six hours, we have most of the run of show decided. Jason decides to open the show with a sharp tweed mechanic suit and close with a heavily feathered finale--try saying that three times fast. Better yet, try saying it three times fast at 1 a.m.—the time we finally decide to adjourn this styling sesh.
Monday, September 6
For most, Labor Day means barbeques and bathing suits—but in Wu world, production meetings and further fittings are on our agenda. We're still in the midst of booking models, and two top agencies, Women and Supreme, have sent us gorgeous show packages containing all their girls' new comp cards. Since I've always been fascinated by the casting process, I take a little break to flip through the photos. As for the cast for Jason's show, we already have a handful of A-list catwalkers confirmed—Karlie Kloss, Abbey Lee, and Ymre Stiekema, but we won't begin fitting each girl into her designated look until tomorrow.
Oh, and if that framed sketch in the background looks familiar, it might be because it's the original drawing of Michelle Obama's inauguration dress. Nice.
Model Aline Weber tries an off-the-shoulder champagne-colored number on for size.
Tuesday, September 8
On today's agenda? A whopping fifteen fittings! Jason is adamant about sewing his finale frocks directly on each individual girl (an haute couture approach that's gotten pushed to the fashion wayside in recent years), which means a lot of standing around—in seven-inch-high platforms, no less—for our cast. As a thank you for their patience, we keep a stack of super-soft tees and knits on hand to offer as parting gifts. And as the ever-lovely Karlie shows here, a few of our girls couldn't wait until they got home to sport their new Wu!
Kisses from Kloss!
BFF on and off the runway: From left, Austria Alcantara, Arlenis Sosa, Tao Okamoto, and Liu Wen kick back in our reception area.
Wednesday, September 9
By the second day of fitting, some among us are already feeling hints of fashion fatigue—so leave it to the bubbly Katie Fogarty to spread a little Fashion Week cheer around the office! Although her look called for major alterations, Katie gamely grinned through all the pinning. "Back in school," she told me, "I always had too much energy—I just never stopped going. So my parents just signed me up for every sports team they could!" Could her runway strut be a product of her track and field training, then?
Thursday, September 10
It's the eve of our fashion show, and things are, to put it lightly, crazy. Morning brings a visit from actress Kerry Washington, stylist Rob, and Kerry's adorable canine companion Josephine Baker. After trying on a couple of dresses as options to wear to tomorrow's show, Kerry settles on a brightly-colored strapless confection from Resort 2010.
Tangerine dream: Kerry on show day. Photo by Liana Tarantin.
The rest of the day includes making last-minute dress alterations, snapping photos at fittings, creating dress boards, and writing the official run of show to release to press. Work continues until the wee hours; In fact, our last model, Iris Strubegger, doesn't arrive for her fitting at 1:30 a.m. due to Fashion's Night Out festivities. Fortunately, her ostrich-plume ensemble fits her perfectly. Fashion fate aligns at last!
Friday, September 11
It's showtime—and with everyone from actresses Amanda Peet and Becki Newton to Conde Nast's elite in attendance, I think it's safe to say we hit this one out of the proverbial park. Even the outdoor drizzle can't dampen our spirits as Jason sends forth a stellar, colorful collection—one that's universally deemed his most ambitious yet. Once the dust settles on the mirrored runway, hundreds of hugs and kisses are exchanged, the collection is carefully packed up, and it's back to the studio. After all, those pre-fall frocks aren't going to design themselves!
Jason hits the catwalk for a well-deserved victory lap. Bravo! Photo by Liana Tarantin.

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