When fashion designer Jason Wu’s capsule collection for Target Stores made its debut in Miami earlier this month, chaos ensued.
A single couple loaded two shopping carts full of Mr. Wu’s pieces and, while other customers looked on with daggers, bought the entire stock.
Officials for Target Canada insist the same situation will not be allowed to recur in Toronto on Thursday, when the company opens a one-day pop-up store at 363 King St. W., expressly to sell the Wu collection. About 2,500 items, including pleated skirts, jersey dresses, shirt dresses, sleeveless tops, purses and scarves, will be available.
Buyers will be limited to three items apiece. In an interview, Mr. Wu, 28, said Target approached him 18 months ago about a possible collaboration. “They didn’t really have to sell me. I really liked the team and have been a big fan of other collaborations they’ve done.”
Items in the Target collection will sell for between $10 and $45, a significant discount from the prices his designs fetch in high-end boutiques, where dresses sell for at least $800.
“It’s a great way for me to reach out to a broader clientele,” Mr. Wu explained. “Younger girls, in their teens or 20s, often can’t afford what I do, but they’re fans. So this is an opportunity, a gift for people who have supported me. It’s a way to get my name out there in a whole different way.”
New York City-based, Mr. Wu has lately become a hot commodity in the fashion world. His celebrity clientele now includes socialites Ivanka Trump and Tinsley Mortimer, and actresses Leighton Meester ( Gossip Girl), January Jones ( Mad Men), and Kerry Washington ( Ray, For Colored Girls).
After serving an apprenticeship with Narciso Rodriguez, he appeared on the scene in 2006, with his eponymous, ready-to-wear line.
But he catapulted into prominence in 2009, when Michelle Obama selected one of his creations – a white gown, one-shouldered, and made of silk chiffon and Swarovski crystals – to wear to the inaugural balls.
“I found out about it when I saw it TV,” he said. “I was completely taken by surprise.”
Mr. Wu has also had backing from Vogue editor Anna Wintour, a force in the fashion industry.
The son of a pharmaceutical executive, Mr. Wu was born in Taiwan and moved with his mother to Vancouver when he was nine. “My parents wanted to give me an education in the West. My dad flew back and forth every three months. I don’t think I’d be where I am, had they not given me those opportunities.”
It was in Vancouver, he says, “that I really caught the bug. My mother bought me a sewing machine and I started making dolls from scrap materials.”
Target’s pop-up store is a teaser event, in preparation for its formal 2013 launch in Canada. The Minneapolis-based enterprise plans to open 125 to 135 stores across Canada next year, beginning with 24 outlets in Ontario.
Fashion Magazine editor-in-chief Bernadette Moira says Mr. Wu’s association with Target fits a retail trend, in which retailers collaborate with big-name designers.
“For a mass retailer like Target to link its name to his will bring them a lot of attention and a perception of being cool and with it,” she said. “What’s in it for him? Money, honey.”
Lisa Gibson, head of public relations for Target Canada, declined to disclose exactly what Mr. Wu is being paid. However, she said the entire proceeds of Thursday’s sale will be donated to Toronto’s United Way campaign.
A capsule collection typically consists of a small number of pieces for sale, representative of a designer’s work.
Often, manufacturing runs are short, so that the items become the equivalent of limited editions in art. Consumers frequently list them for resale on websites like eBay and Craigslist.
Last fall, when Target launched a line by the Italian fashion house Missoni, a throw blanket that was part of the collection was posted on eBay days later, at five times its original retail price.
Mr. Wu’s capsule collection went on sale online at Target stores in the U.S. earlier this month and sold out. One day after being made available, some 11,000 Jason Wu items were posted on eBay, most of them with 10- to 20-per-cent markups.
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