Jason Wu burst onto the fashion scene in 2006, when as a 26-year-old emerging designer he created Michelle Obama’s inaugural ballgown, an ivory one-shouldered look that spoke to new beginnings.
A lot has happened since then and, interestingly, eveningwear is the smaller part of his apparel business.
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“Everyone is seeing me like I was 15 years ago, but I’ve evolved,” Wu said backstage Sunday afternoon before his spring 2024 show at New York Fashion Week, showing off his arm — still a work in progress — with every collection print he’s ever done tattooed on it.
“It’s not that I want to shed my image. I stand for American clothes, beautiful craftsmanship, I still manufacture in New York…but I don’t know what the future holds because it’s all shifting. We’re trying to keep the art. New York has always been known as commercial, but what’s commercial has shifted,” he said, expressing the same unease several other designers of his generation have this week, including Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez.
Wu’s choice of show venue — 28 Liberty Street, formerly known as One Chase Manhattan Plaza and now owned by consumer goods group Fosun — also spoke to the changing landscape.
The tower’s plaza has a landmark-status sunken Japanese garden designed by Isamu Noguchi, which for 50-plus years was private and could only be looked down on from street level. Soon the basement will be redeveloped as a food hall, and diners will be able to enjoy the view of the garden at eye level, where Wu staged his show.
But for now, the space is a construction zone, which the designer liked for his show because of its resemblance to the barren land of the post-pandemic, post-society HBO drama “The Last of Us.”
“To say ‘the last of us,’ I don’t think there are so many of us left, the independents,” Wu said of the New York fashion scene. “The entire world is becoming conglomerates. The only way to get through is to tell my story in a personal way. It’s about embracing beauty as it is now, not as what it was.”
So with “The Trump Building” sign above the Noguchi atrium in plain view from the runway seats, Wu showed a strong collection of sportswear and eveningwear that was equal parts grit and glamour, hand-shredding an ivory jacquard skirt paired with a sheer silver embroidered tank, and hand-destroying a red sweater over a thready tweed miniskirt.
There were striking black-and-white prints done in the style of 19th-century etchings, featuring Chinese landscapes and the face of the first Chinese Hollywood movie star, Anna May Wong, and evening dresses in a poison-green jacquard that brought to mind the fungus from “The Last of Us.”
Wu played with transparent layers in darkly elegant bias-cut dresses or skirts over pants, and showed denim with his feminine touch, creating a mood that was seductive and subversive.
Launch Gallery: Jason Wu RTW Spring 2024
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