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Diane Kruger and Jason Wu on Cannes Film Festival Looks and Their Frienship

Jason Wu rebuffs the term “muse” when it comes to describing his relationship with Diane Kruger. Sure, the German actress is one of his fashion icons, but their relationship has grown to be something much more, the designer says. 

“I work a lot with entertainers, but I do my job. I don’t have any ulterior motive other than to make my client look amazing,” Wu says from his Garment District offices in Manhattan on a recent morning. “Diane and I just naturally clicked because we’re both very straightforward, and she’s been there for me over the last decade personally, through great times and through difficult times. She’s a friend, she’s much more than a muse. She’s my inspiration.” 

The pair met in 2009 when Kruger was on the way to Cannes and had seen a dress she wanted to wear from Wu’s latest collection. An immediate connection was formed, both in fashion and friendship. In 2017, Kruger brought Wu as her guest to Cannes, where she would go on to win the Palme d’Or for “Into the Fade.” Now the pair have teamed again for another Cannes moment, as Kruger travels to the festival for the new David Cronenberg film “The Shrouds,” costarring Vincent Cassel and Guy Pearce.

Plans for “The Shrouds” were revealed last year at Cannes, with Léa Seydoux set to star. However, she soon had to drop out and Kruger got word that Cronenberg wanted to meet her. 

“It’s a movie about grief and death and how you deal with that in a relationship, and I didn’t know that it was kind of based on his own story,” Kruger says. “So when you see the film, which is very Cronenberg-en, of course, it does feel like it has a whole other dimension because it’s his story in a way. And I get to play three different characters in the film. One being his wife, who was dying of breast cancer, and then the wife’s sister, and an avatar that the main character created in her honor. So it’s a big undertaking.”

For her Cannes photo-call look, Kruger will wear a blue strapless dress custom made by Wu, in a crinkled satin fabric. 

“This film is about grief, but it’s a Cronenberg picture, right, so it’s not a realistic film in that sense. And I love the idea of blue and that watering blue because it’s this color of hope, and there’s something very beautiful in the film, which is about true love, something that is accompanying someone through their illness and through death and what it means for a couple. So I wanted to convey that, and the color stood out to me,” Kruger says. “Actually, a lot of my looks for Cannes are water-based.” 

Wu and Kruger have developed a shorthand for finding the right message to convey with a look. With the gown for “Into the Fade,” a movie in which she plays a mother who loses her son in a terrorist attack, “it didn’t feel right to me at all to do one of those big gowns like you see in Cannes so often with the glitter and the bright colors,” Kruger says. “I wanted to make it special and beautiful, but it needed to fit the mood of the film. And [Jason] immediately got that.”

“It was from my 10th year anniversary collection,” Wu recalls of the dress for Cannes 2017. “I was just so proud of her. The movie left such an impression on me — and I don’t BS around her. It was really compelling and I was really happy to be there for her. And we had a club sandwich in her room afterward.”

Kruger typically works without a stylist, looking at collections online and reaching out to designer friends. 

“Jason was my first phone call,” Kruger says. “I’d been to the show, and it was very wintry, but there was this beautiful bluish dress that he made, and I loved that fabric. And I called him and I said, ‘Listen, would you be interested in making the photocall look?’” Kruger says. The runway original was more of a straight shape than Kruger likes on her body. 

“I was in Brazil [when she called] and I was like, ‘I know what to do,’” Wu says. “I know her.

“Even the first time we went to the Met [in 2011], on the runway, that top was like a loose sort of T-shirt fit,” Kruger recalls. “And I was like, ‘Make it a bodysuit, please.’ He just knows me now.”

Wu says that Kruger is the only person he really sketches for, and often will send her a doodle of how he’s imagining her dresses to be. The duo say they each find their relationship to be hard to find in their respective industries these days. 

“I think in a world where there’s so much business everywhere, not just fashion, it’s just everywhere — it’s business. I think art and relationship is something that’s rarer and rarer. And so when I work with Diane, I feel like I’m at my best,” Wu says.

“When I started out as a model, there was much more of that,” Kruger replies. “I remember the careers of models were different, too. They really had personal relationships with the designers. My relationship with Karl [Lagerfeld] was so different than [things are now]. There are lots of designers I like today, but it’s very rare that I could literally walk over [to Jason’s] and be like, ‘Would you make a dress for Cannes?’ The fact that he just literally is like ‘OK, what do you want to wear? What’s the color?’ And he would design it in front of me. That is a shorthand.”

“I feel like what we have is rare. I value our friendship so much that even if she never wears me again, we’ll still be great friends. It’s not about business for me,” Wu says. “It’s not about me as a designer and her as an actress, it’s us. It’s about a real relationship. That’s not a transaction. That’s what I find very rare.”

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