The very idea that Jason Wu, American design’s crowned prince of prim and proper, could find inspiration for his latest ready-to-wear collection from an artist as carnally-fused as Helmut Newton, shouldn’t be that big of a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. Sex has been on the Wu docket for years, but never through a prism as sexually emblematic as that of Newton. So when Carolyn Murphy, a Newton starlet from the days of yore (the 80s) opened the show wearing a black leather sheath with a molded corset top – did it feel sexy? Yes, absolutely. Did it feel improper, though ? – oh, well definitely not that, not for a second.
To hit the message home so clearly after only two looks was particularly impressive. How could it not transmit via a patterned, tight bandeau top paired with a high-waisted black skirt that trickled from leather to jagged lace to a hybrid of leather-lace at the hem? That same ploy looked especially sexy on a black apron dress, the clear starting point in the show of Wu’s heavy play on harnesses to follow. The leather and harnesses aside, everything else that made this Wu’s big ‘sexy moment’ were staple Wu tenets to begin with. The netting (the elbow length gloves, the film noir veils), the abundance of sheer (strategic peekaboos, printed lounge robes) – that’s all part of Wu’s language.
Also, much like Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Maier, Wu can’t seem to help himself from making his collections aficionados of the art world. Just like his Spring collection from a year ago featured floral prints by the controversial artist KAWS on little short shorts and nylon windbreakers, here Wu employed the same motif on sheaths and robes using ghostly renditions of artist Lillian Bassman’s black and white floral images (One such sheath with an open back, imbued in that print, had shoulders that extended to a pair of flowy wings – divine). And before collaborating with artsy fartsy bad-boy KAWS on prints, he looked to photography giant Robert Polidori for his Versailles-inspired collection (Whoever found strict primness and no sexuality in that collection had to be blind). But there was still Wu’s tangible primness to be admired. His perfectly tailored blouses arrived here in alternating white and black harnesses and were the best examples of how his inherent carnal touches and renowned sweetness make for picture-perfect bed fellows.
The final looks made one wish that Wu hadn’t concentrated so heavily on separates, practical for business or not. The bewitching ball gown skirts on Jac and Karlie were like captured plumes of smoke. We’ve already dubbed the closing gown on Cora Emmanuel the “Big Bang” dress. Sparkling scintillant on a summertime dusk blue – has a dress ever captured the notion “We are Stardust” so beautifully?