NEW YORK, United States — Post-show, Jason Wu was exulting in the fact that, for the first time, he had flat shoes on his catwalk. But don’t let that seemingly casual touch fool you. It was still the formality of mid-century couture that engaged the designer. He called his collection Glamour; “in a modern way”, he insisted, but it was still the photographs of Vogue classicist John Rawlings and the style of Best-Dressed List Hall-of-Famer Slim Keith that were among his primary reference points. No, maybe not Keith’s style, which was, after all, famously relaxed, but more her golden all-American aura — relaxation was scarcely the point of Wu's latest looks.
He was also thinking about the furniture of Jean Royère, another of his mid-century favourites. There was something impressively solid about the clothes in their rich, dark tones. Even a flourish of hot pink looked serious in this context. But, after a while, impressive edged into oppressive. Caped sleeves amplified the silhouettes, balanced by ruffles though not lightened by them. Wu wanted his ruffles to be aggressive, rather than prissy, so he stiffened them, cutting them from python, glazed raffia and cloth as substantial as the table linens in the fine restaurants where Slim Keith would disport herself with her glamorous companions.
“Couture elements meet American sportswear” — that’s the Wu formula. Cropped knits, a little sheer here and there, raw edges… they were all there to deflate the formality. But, it is clear where Wu’s heart lies. Uptight is just right with him. Still, you wonder what would happen if he shook loose those tight little chignons.