Jason Wu-ed Target Masses


Batli Joselevitz

Beth Zimmerman models an outfit from the Jason Wu Collection for Target projected onto a whiteboard. Wu’s collection, almost all of whose items are priced less than $60, sold out only hours after being debuted online.

Anjli Mehta

While football fans wore jerseys emblazoned with their team’s logo on Super Bowl Sunday, fashion fiends around the nation slipped into comfortable shoes and an outfit that would be easy to quickly peel on and off in the fitting rooms for the launch of designer Jason Wu’s line for Target.

Inspired by French films and an “American girl in Paris,” Wu created a 53-piece line including A-line dresses, structured handbags and a soon-to-be iconic black cat T-shirt. Although prices from Wu’s main line can easily reach thousands of dollars in high-end department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, prices for his Target line range from $19.99 to $59.99. Target manager Kelsey Ubrich said that her store’s location at 5300 South MoPac Expressway had a line of 40 to 50 people outside its doors by around 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.

“Overall, we thought it went really well,” Ubrich said. “We weren’t sure of what the turnout would be because Jason Wu is a little lesser known than Missoni, but we thought it was a safe environment and that our customers seemed happy.”

Ubrich alluded to the infamous Missoni for Target launch this past September that not only had shoppers in a manic rush, but also crashed the Target website. Ubrich said that by Sunday afternoon, there was still about a quarter of Wu merchandise left in the store. With the nature of expected returns, a store may be sold out now but could have items in the next weeks.

Though Jason Wu may not be a household name yet, the fashion-hungry crowd has craved Wu’s signature whimsically feminine yet crisp, clean styles since he won the Fashion Group International’s Rising Star award in 2008. Wu, 29, also gained notoriety when he custom-designed first lady Michelle Obama’s inauguration gown. The one-shouldered white gown, in all its gauzy glory with dozens of delicate organza flowers, is now being preserved at the Smithsonian’s first ladies’ exhibit.

Elizabeth Allensworth, assistant public relations director for UT’s University Fashion Group, was excited about the collaboration.

“Jason Wu has an obvious soft, feminine quality with an air of sophistication as well,” Allensworth said. “The Jason Wu for Target line has a delightful nod to the ‘60s.”

The group’s public relations director Tyler Neal said the line incorporated American style refined with typical Parisian sophistication.

“Every girl dreams of going to Paris, and Jason Wu is bringing that to life in his new collection,” Neal said.

While Target has touted widely popular brand collaborations with Missoni and Zac Posen, many other retailers have undertaken similar lines. Chanel mastermind Karl Lagerfeld designed a line for Macy’s this past September, featuring pieces that ranged from $50 to $170.

Lagerfeld also designed a line for retailer H&M in 2004, and the store has since then been pumping out a steady stream of guest-designer collaborations, each one more hyped than the last. Most recently, fashion powerhouse Versace graced H&M racks with studded leather shift dresses and tropical-printed leggings.

Allensworth believes that the designer lines for lower-end retailers become crazes because of the accessibility it provides customers who may not have felt comfortable stepping into a high-end department store.

“High fashion is great, but as a consumer, consistently feeling left out or not good enough can be discouraging,” Allensworth said. “It’s one of the rare times where you can essentially have it all, the label and the affordable price.”

Textiles and apparel design sophomore Natalie Poche agreed.

“It’s like a taste of the good life,” Poche said. “Also, I love it because it makes me feel as if the designer wants everybody to be able to afford and wear their pieces.”

Most retail collaborations cleverly release a lookbook of the line’s items prior to its launch. Those images usually become viral on fashion blogs and are published in fashion magazines, creating enough buzz to predict customer turnout before the line even launches. Stores carry a limited supply of the line’s items and state that, in most cases, their stock of a guest-designed line won’t be replenished.

“The ‘craze’ part comes in when people realize how short of an amount of time they have to gather up their favorite pieces before someone else snatches it up,” Poche said.

If you couldn’t scoop up any of the Jason Wu styles from Target this past week, rest assured that there are plenty designer collaborations on the way, including Alberta Ferretti for Macy’s this April. The Italian fashion house is known for artfully twisted and tucked chiffon gowns. Also, Marni for H&M will be released this March, featuring its signature jewel tones and bohemian prints. While the fashion cult favorite retailer H&M has 2,300 stores in over 43 countries, Texas is only home to one of them in Dallas.

Designer-store collaborations have single-handedly transformed stores that most fashion worshippers had previously sworn off into cool-again meccas for discounted designer treasures that are “oh so recession-chic.”

Printed on, February 7, 2012 as:Retail, designer combines high class look with low price