On the surface, Jason Wu wasn't an obvious choice for Hugo Boss. The German brand is known first and foremost for its menswear—Benedict Cumberbatch looked dashing in a Boss suit in the front row—while Wu is famous for designing Michelle Obama's inauguration gowns. It had to count for a lot with the Boss brass, which is eager to make a big push into womenswear, that the 31-year-old designer is a notoriously hard worker. Ambitious as hell, to boot. Both characteristics were on display today at his assured (if imperfect) debut, where Reese Witherspoon, Gerard Butler, Diane Kruger, and Gwyneth Paltrow, the face of a Boss fragrance to be released later this year, were also in attendance. That's a deep celebrity bench, and it's worth noting that they stood up and clapped as he came out for his bow. Not an everyday occurrence at New York fashion week.
The company's menswear provided an obvious way in for Wu. "The first order of business was to get into the DNA of the brand," he said afterward. "At their technical facilities, they have every kind of machine, including a shirt-folding machine. That precision, that rigor needed to be expressed, but in a feminine way. It needs to be authentic." Without a doubt these were precisely tailored clothes, and quite minimal too. The palette was strictly neutral: all black, charcoal, camel, and ivory. Hidden snaps or D rings replaced buttons in most cases. What embroideries there were were rendered in a Bauhaus-inspired grid. Rigorous, indeed. Leather belts accentuated waistlines, but the silhouette was long and lean, hardly voluptuous. The clothes will appeal to a no-frills kind of woman who likes the idea of having a uniform. The statuesque Stella Tennant comes to mind; she closed the show in a pretty faultless black pantsuit with satin revers. Other types will likely find it a bit dry. Wu's challenge going forward will be to maintain the Boss polish while figuring out ways to loosen up and have a bit more fun.