Two legends of fashion photography came together in the mind of Jason Wu on Friday when he sent out a spring-summer 2013 collection that encapsulated his vision of a strong yet sensual woman.
The Taiwan-born, Canadian-bred designer, one of the stars of the ongoing New York fashion week, is a special favorite of Michelle Obama, although one wonders if the US first lady might find his latest work just a bit too risque.
Veteran model Carolyn Murphy, 39, opened the 42-look show in a Lower Manhattan warehouse in a black crocodile embossed leather sheath with point d'esprit tulle corset, descending a runway towards a floor-to-ceiling mirror.
Backstage, Wu said he was inspired this season by the seemingly contradictory styles of New York photographer Lillian Bassman, who died earlier this year, and German-born Helmut Newton, who passed away in 2004.
"Lillian was known for her dreamlike, beautiful couture-quality photos and Helmut Newton before her for his incredibly sexy and provocative photos," Wu told AFP.
"What I found in common between the two of them was an appreciation of the feminine form and a focus on the female body," he said.
"That's been a point I've tried to concentrate on for a long time, and that's quite evident throughout my collections, but this one is especially sexy and I wanted to really portray my version of a strong, confident, beautiful woman."
In this year of "Fifty Shades of Grey," Wu made full use of leather for pencil skirts, bustier harness dresses, and high-waisted short shorts, matched at times with leopard skin pillbox clutches and sheer full-length gloves.
For evening, leather gave way to nude, navy blue and black tulle gowns that might be close to the taste of his most famous client -- although Wu is not prematurely anticipating getting another commission for an Obama inauguration.
"I think that's in the future," said Wu, who early this year contributed a T-shirt design -- no longer available -- to Runway to Win, a coalition of big-name New York designers supporting Barack Obama's re-election.
Earlier Friday, San Francisco native Peter Som, another first-lady favorite, struck a more feminine note with a light-as-air collection rich in white, pink and blue cottons that nevertheless kept the tailoring close to the body.
"For me, it was the idea of an uptown-downtown mix, a kind of (socialite) Brooke Astor meets (rock star) Courtney Love," Som told AFP, adding he wanted to imbue "a kind of a sense of ease and spontaneity" in his prints and laces.
Highlights at his Meatpacking District show included bustier dresses and tops in cotton and silk, plus a patchwork snakeskin T-shirt and coat -- both collaborations between Som and denim innovators Earnest Sewn.
"I think collaborations are great," said Som, who has done a number of them. "Creative people love working together and I think it's really a nice way to bring in another point of view."