“We did the best business in our company’s entire history last year,” Jason Wu shared backstage. Considering 2021 was bookended by Delta and Omicron, those results seem unexpected, even counterintuitive. His specialty is fancy occasion dresses: who needs one of those in a pandemic? It’s been a soberting time. “Women just want to look beautiful,” Wu rationalized.
For fall, he looked at fashion illustrations of the 1950s. As a young person he considered pursuing that as a career; then and now, the stylized, expressive lines of the era’s advertisements and editorials resonated for him. “There was something really beautiful about them,” he said. “So that will be reflected in the collection—that human touch.”
Last season, Wu used words like individual and intimate; here he was talking about imperfection. There was nothing that approached what we think of as deconstruction—he’s not that kind of designer—but the collection felt rawer at times than his typical output. Tweeds unraveled into thick fringes and warp printing resulted in blurry, imprecise florals. All of the satins were thrown in the washing machine for a less precious look.
The expressive volumes of 1950s haute couture have been in the air since Demna’s Balenciaga couture debut last July. Wu made them his own by recasting them in modern shapes, like a puffer coat cut in waterproof moiré with an era-appropriate midi-length circle skirt, or a bow front cocktail dress split into a separate top and skirt for versatility. Slim cigarette trousers paired with a satin bustier provided a body-conscious counterpoint. But the stars of the show were the strapless moiré party dresses, one in marigold and the other black; they delivered on the glamour of those ’50s illustrations.
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This article was originally published on Vogue.com.