Jason Wu, edgy? At a preview of his collection, he said he was taking more chances this season and cited KAWS, the graffiti artist who came to fame in the nineties for inking up bus-shelter ads of Kate Moss, as a major source of inspiration. That wasn't just lip service. Wu collaborated with KAWS on the flower-petal print that dominated his show. But that's not to say that there was anything truly "street" on the runway today. This is a designer beloved by red-carpet starlets and First Lady Michelle Obama, just as savvy at business as he is at sewing a buttonhole. Upper-thigh-baring sport shorts aside, pretty and proper is what Wu does, and this Spring collection was no exception.
Where he did push boundaries was in the areas of fabric innovation and embellishment. Regarding the former, Wu chose a nearly weightless nylon "that moves like chiffon" for his outerwear. In ballerina pink, the parka would be a cool alternative to the predictable evening shawl. The gazar he used for his Cristobal Balenciaga-esque flared-skirt dress, meanwhile, was not only ultralightweight but also came in a heather gray the color of your favorite old T-shirt (the same shade, it so happens, as his best-selling black lace-sleeve sweatshirt from Fall). Last season's rococo gold bullion embroideries were out, and in their place were Nerds candy-shaped beads sewn onto shirt collars. "Old-school techniques that look electrocuted," was how Wu described the effect.
Sounds weird, but it was charming. And the young celeb set will find those flirty shorter-in-the-front, longer-in-the-back ball skirts seductive, too. Knowing just how far to push things may be one of Wu's most valuable gifts.