NEW YORK — Casting and fitting models for a fashion show is more art than science, but, says designer Jason Wu, there's still a formula.
"It's like match-making," he said. "It has to fit."
The process of choosing the 42 catwalkers for Friday's runway show during New York Fashion Week started about a month ago, with 70 percent or so of the models returning from the September season. For some of his favorite models — Karlie Kloss in recent seasons — he'll even keep them in mind during the design process.
He considers their height, their hair, their body type and smile, and even the way they walk.
Kloss, for example, is a veteran of Wu's shows, and her slow, sultry walk begged for a statement gown.
By the time models are ready to come in to try on their outfits, Wu has most of it all planned — from the shoes to the hair.
But, there's wiggle room: On the Tuesday before New York Fashion Week began, he handed one model a pair of tassel earrings to add to her green-and-black look, and wondered if her gloves should be plain or studded. He wasn't happy with the hemline on another's gown, so that needed to be adjusted, too.
As she walked for Wu and his team on a makeshift runway made of white paper used in the studio by pattern makers, she was pricked under the arm with another pin he had used to make a change to the bodice that probably only Wu would notice. "Don't bleed on the dress!" he joked.
That dress would then be packed up within minutes and sent off to a nearby Garment District factory for final alterations. Runway clothes that are the heart of big, expensive blockbuster fashion shows spend the week before in the hands of interns running back and forth as a few more sequins are sewn or buttons moved.
Once the clothes fit like a second skin, the model poses in the studio for a photo against a stark, plain backdrop. Wu has to see that before he'll give the final sign off on a model, an outfit and its trimmings. "I know what it's supposed to look like, and I'll see it, and the people there will see it that way, but most people will see it in a photograph, so I want that to look right."
Yes, he said, he is a little bit of a perfectionist. He is, though, open to suggestions and is willing to listen to models when they have suggestions, especially about accessories or little tweaks. "She has to be believable and offer something interesting for this to really work," he said.