When I first saw Jason Wu’s Cadillac commercial earlier this year, I thought, “Good for him! He’s finally getting some of the recognition and sponsorship he deserves!” Okay, so Cadillac isn’t exactly the most common fashion sponsor, but since Mercedes-Benz has taken their money elsewhere, one luxury car maker is just as good, right? I mean, Cadillac even sponsored today’s show, so Jason must be really happy, right?
I’m not so convinced. If anything, this afternoon’s show felt very much scaled back. There were very few suits in the collection, only one gown, and a noticeable absence of the polish which we’re accustomed to seeing from Jason. He also pulled back on his models, with no Karli, no Gigi, and even Ruth Bell, the primary model for Wu’s spring campaign, was stuck in the middle of the pack in an almost non-descript print dress. Neiman-Marcus sponsored the “live stream,” which consisted of an intern on Periscope sitting four rows back. I can’t imagine the view was very helpful. Even the pit was smaller this season.
All this is a bit troubling for the still-young designer. I think I mentioned at some point last season that Jason’s collection for Hugo Boss seemed more on point than did his eponymous collection and now, having seen this season’s show, I’m worried that perhaps Jason is falling victim to the disease of over-commitment, where the scheduling demands are so great that he doesn’t have time to really sit down and be as creative as we know he can. He certainly wouldn’t be the first designer to complain of such pressure recently and I wouldn’t blame him if he were to pull back a bit.
What we saw this afternoon was a return to prints, which were completely absent from his fall/winter 2015 collection. He brings those back with a flourish, all nice and polite, never out of place, though a bit much in some of the longer pieces. He indulges in feathered fringe some this season, which isn’t especially unusual accept that it muddies lines that we typically expect to be crisp. He keeps some of the broad fur collars from last season, but they are accessories that fasten in front and that fastener is not always neat.
Some of his best looks are the most simple: a black crepe blouse with tuxedo pants, a short, solid blue dress paired with a simple necklace, an off-the-shoulder sweater dress with sleeves that come down over the knuckles, and a dark-toned floral print dress. He occasionally gets daring with a low-cut neckline or flirting with sheer, but nothing quite as adventurous as we saw just last season. All the way through the show, I couldn’t help getting the feeling that Jason was pulling back, becoming more reserved and uncertain.
Even the accessories are pulled back. There was a great stiletto in the mix last year, but this season is more subdued, lower heels, with nothing that really stands out. The few handbags present were relatively ordinary. Hair meshes to the head, a theme this season, and the bare-faced makeup look is quite ordinary for runways anymore. The overwhelming lack of excitement is astonishing.
This doesn’t feel like the same Jason Wu that excited us last September. He came out for his customary bow looking tired, his smile slow to appear. Has Jason Wu lost his zing, or is the industry sucking the life from him as it has so many others? I’m concerned. We’ll be watching his BOSS collection very carefully in hopes that things pick up there.
photo credit: Yannis Vlamos