For those who thought Jason Wu’s pre-fall collection — tougher, more structured — might have signaled a lasting shift in the designer’s direction, think again. Fall found Wu squarely back in the pretty, polished fold, his bread-and-butter currency thus far. But there were savvy lessons picked up from that hard-edged detour, namely, terrifically meaty sportswear and a healthy dose of men’s wear influences: ascot-collared shirts, lush angora coats, tuxedo jackets and an excellent hooded wool parka. Most importantly, while younger designers often fall into one of two sportswear traps, tricked-out or dishwater dull, Wu worked a fine balance of quiet intrigue, mostly via combinations that worked a subtle artisiness — a plaid traveler coat paired with a striped sweater and sequined draped skirt, for instance.
Pre-show, Wu noted that the collection was inspired by Irving Penn, both photos of him by Alexander Liberman (the men’s wear pieces) and the photographer’s own work. Those gold-leaf splatters on a satin sheath? A nod to Penn’s images of mudmen in New Guinea. (And that’s real gold, by the way, to match the flaxen necklaces by Aurélie Bidermann.) Moreover, Penn’s blurry platinum prints provided the starting point for Wu for his layering: halos of fuzzy washed mohair on T-shirts and vests by day and tulle overlays softening up constructed cocktail dresses.
As for evening, variations on spring’s feathery confections felt too familiar, but the real news came in the curvy veiled numbers — some charming in their girlish awkwardness and others, just awkward — as well as plumped-up volume. Case in point: the pouf-skirted shantung frock featuring an abstract “cigarette-burn” print, also inspired by Penn.