How do couture-like silhouettes manifest into something essentially urban and city-ready? Ask Sacai’s Chitose Abe who this season looked to haute couture – volume, panniers and Fortuny pleats included – to stir her no-holds-barred imagination.
This collection proved that there is no end to her ambition; it takes gumption to reimagine those exaggerated volumes and ideas and rework them in heavy – often masculine – fabrics, all the while executing something elegant. An M65 parka was puffed up at the back, pannier hips and tulle padding shaped sweaters and skirts, while herringbone tweeds were elasticised to form womanly hourglass silhouettes. It was about something precious and rarefied applied to the familiar and everyday.
Her series of sweater dresses – if you can call them that, the workday term seems almost insulting – were exceptional. They comprised chunky Aran knits which were peeled away at the shoulder line to reveal crisp white shirting underneath, while flippy skirts kicked out in panels of knit and cotton.
As complicated as that all sounds, the cleverest – and most crucial – fact about these hybrids is that they’re very often the simplest of pieces to wear. Take the show-goers for example, so many of whom were touting the hits of previous seasons, from the leather-perfecto biker jackets to military and guipure lace coats, khaki bombers, floral maxi dresses, even, a sighting of a broderie anglaise full skirt.
There’s something about these designs that tug at the heartstrings.
Jason Wu is a designer who courted a great crowd from the outset – you’ll recall Michelle Obama and a certain inauguration gown. It’s hard not to talk about him without making the reference – such was its career-defining moment, putting him more visibly on the map and plucking him from an overcrowded New York Fashion Week schedule. He continued to court his glamorous troops with Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin among his front row to add a little edge, which was the overall feel that followed in the collection.
These days Wu is moving away from the sensibility he started out with – less gowns fit for a modern-day ball, more utility gloss, a serious working wardrobe with an ultra-luxe overlay. His original Park Avenue princesses have become more fierce in their fashion taste with strong outerwear options (substantial and solid fur gilets and coats, lapel-unfurling jackets, impeccable tailoring as always) and slinky dresses accompanied by a decent flash of leg the mainstay of her wardrobe.
If there’s an event to go to now, she’s more modern in her approach to dressing for it – we could even (in this context and with those dress slits) throw the word risqué out there, though overall this was less the dazzling affair it has been in the past, more edited, streamlined and structured, a sense of the practical and every-day at its core. Which is no bad thing. Wu’s revision of his idea of glamour has simply now just opened him up to more avenues beside Park.