09/07/2012 04:48 EDT | Updated 11/07/2012 05:12 EST

Jason Wu's spring looks can't be defined as black or white - even though they mostly were

NEW YORK, N.Y. - There wasn't a lot of room for error on the Jason Wu runway at New York Fashion Week on Friday. But he didn't need it.

From Carolyn Murphy's opening crocodile-like leather sheath to the navy silk tulle harness gown with embroidery that closed the show, the look was slim and sophisticated. Lace insets, bra tops, sheer fabrics and sharp tuxedos turned into shorts kept lively what were really refined, classic silhouettes.

Wu, in a backstage interview, said he was inspired by two photographers with differing styles — Helmut Newton and Lillian Basman. "It's two completely different styles. One's quite beautiful, couture and the other is quite provocative and sexy and I love the idea of those two coming together a softness and a hardness coming together and I wanted to make a collection that sort of balanced, just teetered on that line of sexy but still sophisticated," he said.

It was the second show in the early going to make specific reference to Newton (the first was BCBG), which could explain the dominance of black and white. The Wu collection and BCBG also both put leather harnesses on the models to give it a little bit of edge. They topped a white-lace embroidered shirt worn with black croc shorts, and over a pink lace sheath that also got a little bounce from a peplum.

One would imagine that first lady Michelle Obama, who helped propel Wu to hot-ticket status after she wore his gown to the 2008 inauguration, would wear her black-and-white "ghost print" satin sheath with organza insets sans leather hardware.

Wu added delicate lace gloves to some of the outfits, including a leather shell top with a lace racerback neckline that was paired with high-waisted pants that had lace insets down the leg like racing stripes.

"I think he's the most exciting New York designer," said actress Emily Mortimer, who said she became a fan when she wore one of his designs to a Japanese movie premiere — and the empress of Japan complimented it. "She's the most elegant woman I think I've ever met — just so beautiful — and she loved my dress!"

Maybe she'd like to consider the navy "cosmic-embroidered" gown with a high neck and draped chiffon skirt for her next big event?

Someday, Wu would like to watch the show from the front row, but he's usually too concerned about all the details, he explains. He'll settle for the video for now. "I always watch it afterward."