It was a beautiful day for a fashion show in New York City; the sun was shining and there was a comfortable, early fall breeze. But with the COVID-19 pandemic raging on in America, watching beautiful models wearing beautiful clothes gliding down a runway raises questions: What’s the purpose of a runway show right now? Is it to create content and excitement around a brand, or is it the pursuit of creative inspiration? Can a runway show uplift us as we make our way through this terrible, terrifying year? For Jason Wu, this show was about new beginnings, hope, and cultivating a sense of unapologetic escapism.
This spring 2021 runway presentation was Wu’s first for his contemporary-priced line. The theme of the collection was a holiday in Tulum, a place that the designer calls his “home away from home.” There was sand and a wooden boardwalk snaking through a beautifully landscaped bunch of palms and tropical plants, and the sound of waves played serenely in the background. As the first look came down the runway, modeled by Pose star and LGBTQ+ activist Indya Moore, it became clear that the collection represented Wu’s imaginative mental vacation. Moore wore a very comfortable-looking rust-colored maxidress with pockets and bold broderie anglaise detailing just above the hem.
Hanne Gaby Odiele, Indira Scott, and Grace Elizabeth wore Wu’s new designs with similar ease. A striped tunic top and matching trousers looked perfect for a post-beach dinner, while a pleated skirt and bra top conjured thoughts of midday margaritas under a thatched roof in the jungle. There were nicely tailored Bermuda shorts and pretty, flowy dresses in bold yellows and blues and modern floral prints. These were bright and happy clothes, even if exactly when and where we can wear them remains unknown.
Behind the palm tree–bedecked scenes, Wu has been giving back this year. His show notes revealed that he’s introduced a Distance Yourself From Hate campaign and designed masks in collaboration with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis organization, with all profits going toward providing food and PPE to underprivileged communities around the country. The most important thing Wu did today was make clear where he stands and what we can all do to help others through this crisis. But the show—one of just a small handful this New York Fashion Week—was also a reminder that a little spark of fashion joy can go a long way.
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