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Jason Wu’s Elegant Sporty Couture

Godfrey Deeny
September 09th, 2011 @ 3:02 PM - New York

Classy, cool and rather curvy, Jason Wu’s latest collection managed to combine the zip of American sportswear with the elegance of French couture in a bravura display by the young designer, presented in New York on Friday, Sept. 9.

Staged in a Chelsea art gallery, the models strode out on a circular catwalk composed of plastic squares, whose very erratic thatching made it look like an intrepid task for the girls to complete their tours without stumbling. Not one of them did, evidently inspired by the very poise and aplomb of these graceful clothes.

Wu is probably still best known for dressing first lady Michelle Obama, who acquired four dresses by the designer in 2008, and subsequently wore a Wu coat when she met Elizabeth Elizabeth in Buckingham Palace. But while his clothes do have a mature formality, he is certainly not a stiff designer as his intriguing spring 2012 collection firmly underlined.

Wu can certainly mix in the couture references, cleverly pleated silk gazar tops and peplum jackets - out from which peaked bunches of feathers - artfully cut cotton bustiers and shocking pink diagonal slashed skirts. But he pairs the classy elements with techno sporty elements like boxer shorts, nylon windbreakers and athletic mesh tops, making for a very fresh interpretation of fashion.

“I wanted a return to elegance, but in a new way,” explained Wu backstage, revealing that the collection’s ignition had been playing with graphics in collaboration with Pop Art artist KAWS, specifically splashing color on floral prints. This image appeared in prim shorts, ladylike silk blouses, printed T-shirts and some cool clutches, adding punchy zest to the show.

Cannily staged by French producer Alex de Betak, the show was also notable for its refined and pared down mood courtesy of stylist Kate Young.

Wu has received his fare share of plaudits in the past few years, as well he should, for he manages to combine gutsy grace with a light feminine touch. Collections by designers like Wu who create in a patrician style can look out of place on young models, who are oft ill at ease about wearing mature fashion. Not today in this Wu show, where the models came across as rather chuffed at how ladylike and assured they looked. As indeed they did.

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