Vera Wang doesn’t need to be reminded that she’s not the only Wang in town these days. “There’s an Asian invasion going on,” she said during a preview a few days before her spring show. “And I’m the grandmother.” All self-deprecation aside, Wang is celebrating her 20th anniversary this year and has every right to do so with an ode to the motherland. And if Asia offers no shortage of sartorial references from which to choose, finding a way to make it modern presented a challenge until she found the right muse: Lucy Liu’s Japanese gangster in “Kill Bill.” “It was Asian in a different way, not as girly and demure, but sexier and tougher.”
Wang has dabbled in edgy glamour before, typically with dark layers and soft accents, piled high with demonstrative jewels. But this was a new direction, more precise and confident with an intriguing intimidation factor. Out from the shadowy forest backdrop, a blown-up photograph by Yoshihiko Ueda, came the girls in equally mysterious colors: black, eggplant and forest green with a pop of pink or crimson, worked in striking combinations on the floral prints, culled from photographs of magnolias. Wang kept to her signature boy-girl tension, but in a pared-down silhouette and virtual absence of major jewelry — two necklaces in total. Boyshorts, either knee length and slim or short and loose, injected a cool androgyny into the collection, while candy-colored tulle dresses, delightful minus the skinny tails, offered a pretty angle. Decoration came through a series of loosely interpreted Pan-Asian motifs. Origami folds came sharp and flat on a wrap coat and sculptural on printed sheaths, some cinched with corded sumo belts. Nothing was too literal, though that didn’t make the outsize curves that jutted from the hips of dresses and skirts in Wang’s wacky version of an obi any more manageable. But as Wang said, “I’m getting a little more courageous as I get older.” And this collection was a daring departure that bore ample rewards.