NEW YORK, N.Y. - Jason Wu has arrived, and the confidence he's feeling in his emerging success was evident at New York Fashion Week Friday, where his dramatic show featured a collection inspired partly by his Chinese roots.
He has been considered a strong up-and-comer since Michelle Obama wore a gown by the then barely known designer to the presidential inaugural balls in 2008, and his show has increasingly become a hot ticket during the seasonal previews. Then came a Target deal that put a limited collection in stores earlier this month.
Maybe it's with that confidence that he went all out for his runway show, with studded fortress doors, billowing smoke, a theatrical finale and a highly personal Chinese-influenced collection that captured the yin-yang of tough military dress and in-your-face luxurious embellishment.
Wu grew up in Taiwan, but hadn't visited there in years until a trip about 18 months ago. "I almost went back as a foreigner with fresh eyes," he explained in an interview earlier this week.
He tapped into Chinese military uniforms with Mao jackets, grommets, strong shoulders and capes — the best of that look being the green coat with attached cape and black lace that opened the show. A different sort of strength, however, is found in the ornate trappings of the Qing Dynasty and the tassels, embroideries and brocades worn by empresses.
Hollywood went through a period in the 1930s and '40s that reinterpreted and further glamorized traditional Chinese dress, and Wu said he was a fan of that, too, especially Marlene Dietrich in the old movie "Shanghai Express."
The common thread among the elements is strength, he added, "and I had to inject myself and my generation, so I did that with sportswear."
The result? Puffy jackets in glitzy brocade.
The lingering look from this collection, though, is likely the finale: a black wool jacket with epaulets and mink trim covered in crystal embroidery paired with a black skirt etched with fabric through a process known as devore.