From Wu Who? to Wu-Hoo!

Updated: 2012-02-27 15:18

(China Daily/Agencies)

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From Wu Who? to Wu-Hoo!

Jason Wu's designs feature Chinese elements with in-your-face luxurious embellishment. Photos by Jason Decrow / Associated Press

From Wu Who? to Wu-Hoo!

Jason Wu's new collection flaunts Chinese heritage at New York Fashion Week. Samantha Critchell reports.

Jason Wu has arrived, and the confidence he's feeling in his emerging success was evident at New York Fashion Week earlier this month, 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 it in years until a trip about 18 months ago. "I almost went back as a foreigner with fresh eyes," he said in an interview before presenting his collection in New York.

From Wu Who? to Wu-Hoo!

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 (1644-1911) 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.