Jason Wu: Tea Party Sophistication, Turbans, and a Blue Tile Runway

In addition to debuting his first-ever collection of handbags, Wu debuted a new kind of thoughtfulness around design, moving past his tried-and-true cocktail pieces into fully formed looks reminiscent of '40s sophistication.

Staging his runway collection in a massive, exposed-brick space at 82 Mercer, Wu started his show a whopping 40 minute late, though by showtime the front row included Andre Leon Talley, Stefano Tonchi, and Diane Kruger. Wu's shows often feel like a parade of his most loyal customers -- you'll always spot ladies in the second and third rows wearing head-to-toe Wu and impossibly expensive accessories. In this way, Wu is one of the few young talents working today that actually telegraphs the old-school vibe of an Oscar or Carolina: He is incredibly loyal to his clients, and they are quite loyal to him.

As such, it's no surprise that Jason Wu is quite retail-conscious: His collections are always a good balance of wearable separates, suiting, and the cocktail dress for which he has become so well-known. In addition, this year saw him branching out into eyewear and, now, handbags and shoes that are, of course, ladylike and rather '50s-inspired.

While the past couple of seasons have seen Wu experimenting with both bold patterns and an exuberant, hyper-femininity, the designer seems to have taken a much more mature hand in designing Spring 2011: While his inspiration may have been the Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes' eye-catching-yet-ordered pieces, the collection had a much more measured hand in doling out the more frothy elements. An oversize bow blouse was paired with a well-tailored suit jacket and shorts; floaty tea party dresses got a dash of structure with a nipped-in waist. Even one of the collection's more over-the-top pieces -- a "truffle" skirt that Wu claims was inspired by a night eating truffle pasta in Italy -- seemed a lesson in patience, hand-painting the edges of each layer of cut chiffon. Overall, an impressive and cohesive collection, and the little add-ons -- quirky turbans, a blue tile runway -- mostly excused the late start.

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