Second Acts

Sculpting a Career in Fashion

How Alice Wu made the switch from fine arts to clothing design.

When I first contacted Alice Wu, she had just returned from a week of meetings with store buyers and fabric suppliers in Los Angeles, but she promised to get in touch with me soon. The following week, she was on the road for sales appointments in the Pacific Northwest. Ten days later, she wrote a warm, apologetic note from a cab en route to the airport; she was about to fly to Taipei, Taiwan, to visit family before returning for another week of promoting her Feral Childe brand. In fact, Wu is almost always going about the business of making and touting her surprising creations, but she still endeavors to do even more.

Designed by the bicoastal team of Alice Wu, who’s based in Oakland, Calif., and Moriah Carlson of Brooklyn, N.Y., Feral Childe is a women’s clothing line that exudes a maddeningly effortless elegance. It is perhaps best known for its quirky, original prints: One season’s designs resemble stars or little jolts of electricity, while another’s hide secret details like tepees and sea horses. You get the sense that you could pile on any combination of layers and feel comfortable, mysterious, and a little bit badass.