It’s as close to SoHo as Washington gets. Exposed brick walls framed artsy, exhibition shots. Opaque, dark stockings coated gangling legs. Feet donned gilded, thigh-high heels. Servers balanced trays of root vegetables topped with (what else?) caviar.
Such was the scene at the Long View Gallery on Friday, where Nordstrom and Amy Fine Collins, the longtime contributing style editor to Vanity Fair, hosted a private party honoring designer Jason Wu. The “informal fashion presentation”-which Washington rightly formalized-showcased the wunderkind’s fall 2011 collection set to impress shoppers at Nordstrom’s Tysons store.
Wu’s collection was inspired by photographer Robert Polidori’s “Parcours Museologique Revister,” a book featuring photos of the restoration of Versailles, which juxtaposes rough and deteriorating elements with imperial opulence.
“It’s what I call ‘Baroque meets sportswear.’ Taking all these opulent elements that I saw in his photos and translating them into classic American sportswear,” said Wu.
The collection has already garnered attention for its ultra-feminine highlights, like embroidered Swarovski elements, black lace embellishment and masks that look plucked from the estates of Venetian queens or, at least, scenes from Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.”
“Lace felt right for the moment,” said Wu. “It provides the right amount of opulence, a little bit of whimsy.”
The Wu-Washington bond has always been strong, but Wu is both growing up and branching out of Mrs. Obama’s shadow. Boasting a new accessories collection, for which he was nominated for the CFDA’s “Accessory Designer of the Year” award last week, he’s no longer just the heir apparent to Oscar de la Renta’s hold on First Lady lore, known for more than the 2009 inaugural gown that needs no description.
“Two years later, after the inauguration, I feel like we’ve really grown as a brand and I’ve really evolved as a designer. Every season continues to be a progress, the next evolution, but it’s nerve-wracking every season to outdo the last collection,” said Wu.
But it just may be that Wu, who’s outpacing oil prices with his meteoric rise, is a notable bridge between the Beltway and Tri-state chic. Feminine yet modern, whimsical yet wearable, he’s more often associated with Kors and Klein than his downtown contemporaries.
The critics herald Wu for showcasing wisdom beyond his experience, taste that transcends both time and zip codes, and signature styles that translate outside of the tents, selling much further “South of Houston” than many New York designers.
Perhaps, his new logo, a cheeky wise owl, is a fitting emblem for a collection inspired by the imperial. This young designer, not unlike his monarchical muses, is intent on making an empire for himself.