The Jason Wu Spring 2015 collection is modeled during Fashion Week in New York / AP

This collection was American to the core, boldly and proudly referencing American sportswear

What’s in a name? Well, when it’s writ large across the top of show notes accompanying a fashion collection, quite a lot can be read into it. The fact you’re bothering to call it anything at all is quite a statement - especially when it’s a grand title like “Beauty”

That was the word that topped Jason Wu’s spring/summer 2015 show programme, quotation marks intact. It made you wonder, off the bat if it was a not-so-subtle a reference to the pending launch of a cosmetics line, maybe - he has just (as in, announced-this-morning just) sold a majority share of his company to a new investment firm, InterLuxe, and a money-spinning make-up range capitalising on Wu’s major-league name recognition would be clever.

After all, an inauguration gown ensures the kind of profile many designers would (and do) pay good money for. Wu has created not one, but two for Michelle Obama - ensuring everyone from Midwestern soccer moms to New York truck drivers know his name. Incidentally, the last one is an example Wu gave me himself - one shouted his name at a Manhattan crossroads shortly after the first frock hit the headlines. Wu is a savvy businessman, and a good designer. He already has a lower-priced line, Miss Wu, and the gig of artistic director of Hugo Boss’ womenswear line, as well as an expanding accessories offering. The injection of investment will help him build his first flagship store in New York city.


Anyway, back to “Beauty” the collection, rather the cosmetic concept. I couldn’t help but wonder if “American Beauty” would be a better title - because, despite being born in Taiwan and coming to New York via Toronto, there’s something quintessentially American about what Jason Wu does. Actually, that whole rags-to-riches (or rather, rags-to-rich-rags) story is very much the fashion equivalent of the American dream: a little boy who loved playing with dolls who gets to dress the First Lady. And lots of other ladies, too - many of whom lunch. Boy meets girl, boy dresses her in a ball gown. Oldest story in the book.

This collection was American to the core, boldly and proudly referencing American sportswear. Meaning the easy stuff women wore in the sixties and seventies rather than, say, Juicy Couture tracksuits: a slubby, nubby silk twill textured like trompe l’oeil denim was cut into a suit with a sway over the shoulder and a brief, boxy skirt. It was a bit Oleg Cassini, the American Jackie Kennedy turned to to create her Seventh Avenue Chanel-alike two-pieces when she was frowned upon for spending too much money on European couture. 

Wu also referenced the likes of Donna Karan, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein - two of those three are stills designing, sure, but it was more that general, hazy seventies-through-nineties sense of the stripped-down and pared-back as opposed to specific collections. The best summary of that was evening wear - bugle-beaded t-shirt and tank dresses and a few in billowing silk - although buckled suiting with boxy, practical shoulder-bags had the practical bent that epitomises American fashion. It was polished, without being precious. Last season, Wu’s collection referenced old Hollywood: he mentioned Charlotte Rampling this time, but to me it felt more Woody Allen. Sharp, slick, and very New York.