Adrian Wu

How this designer has moved on from Fashion Week

Taking a talent for fashion design and turning it into a lucrative career in creative consulting seems like something a designer might move into after a long career in fashion. But at 23, Adrian Wu has already made that leap.

Wu, who grew up in Burlington, began designing at 18, and has since showed at Vancouver Fashion Week, Ottawa Fashion Week, and most recently, Toronto Fashion Week. His designs are controversial and dramatic, and his runway shows are no different - the models in his Hierarchy of Needs fall/winter 2012 show at Toronto Fashion Week wore Guy Fawkes masks.

Aside from the controversy, Wu's unique designs, impeccable taste, and careful craftsmanship made him a media darling in Toronto, and he credits a lot of his success to Toronto Fashion Week.

"It changed everything," says Wu of Toronto Fashion Week. "People don't really care if you say you're a fashion designer unless you have something to back it up. When I could say I've been doing Toronto Fashion Week for a little while, it really did launch me, and I really owe a lot to the start of whatever career I have to Toronto Fashion Week."

In spite of his gratitude to what is allegedly the second biggest fashion week in North America, after New York, he doesn't think Toronto Fashion Week is the best option for every local designer looking to turn a profit.

"If you think that fashion week is going to make people buy your clothes, you're delusional," says Wu. "If you think fashion week is gong to get your company's name out there, it's more realistic. I wouldn't be surprised if 80 per cent of the designers who show at [Toronto Fashion Week] come from upper class families. There are some people who do fashion week just because they can afford to."

Wu is quick to acknowledge that business sense and marketing are important parts of being a designer. He believes that Toronto is a great city for aspiring designers because it is growing so quickly, but he still thinks that expanding creativity beyond an innovative way to cut a dress is extremely important.

Like many designers in the city, Wu has tried to make a name for himself overseas. After months of meeting with people in Paris and London at several big fashion houses, including Lanvin, Dior and Chanel, he came back home to Toronto and changed his mindset.

Now, Wu is so much more than just a fashion designer. He is a creative consultant for Edelman PR, Free the Children, and Kraft - he designed a line of spoons for their new peanut butter collection. He is cultivating a career in freelance creative directing, and is working to be in "the business of aesthetics." Even though he is very young, it's clear that he has outgrown Toronto Fashion Week.

"I'm not in a place right now where I really need to be doing to fashion week," says Wu. "For me, it has definitely just been a marketing tool for my business. Fashion is still part of my life, and I will not stop doing collections. Right now, I am happy to be doing what I love and making money doing it."

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Photo by Mauricio Calero


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