Carolyn Murphy opened Jason Wu’s spring show, all piercing blue eyes, slicked-back blonde hair and buff, bronzed limbs. Dressed in a croc-embossed leather sheath — short and tight with a sheer panel that revealed a corset construction — and a pair of pumps, she could have walked out of a Helmut Newton photograph. Seldom cryptic in his references, Wu did indeed invoke Newton as his primary inspiration, cross-pollinated with nods to Lillian Bassman.

Anytime a show opens with a vintage model, there’s a statement; in this case, the designer flagged his deliberate move in a more womanly direction. With the launch of his contemporary collection Miss Wu, he now has a separate outlet for his young, playful side. Still, riffing on the hyper-specific, sexually charged stylings of Newton was risky. The S&M aesthetic is way outside Wu’s comfort zone, which skewed decidedly ladylike and romantic. In fact, until now, the squeaky-clean, baby-faced Wu had offered scant indication that he has a naughty side. Consider spring his season of innocence lost, in a way that wouldn’t embarrass his mother.

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