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NYFW: Regina Hall Sits Front Row at Jason Wu, While Prabal Gurung is Shining a Spotlight on Individuality

The Hollywood Reporter 9/11/2022 Laurie Brookins

Few moments in New York fashion have felt more stratospheric than the mid-1990s, when the triumvirate of Calvin, Ralph and Donna dominated both the runways and supermodel-laden ad campaigns, while Geoffrey Beene was crafting gowns so precise and poetic, the designer’s devoted fans would be moved to tears.

On Sept. 10 at New York’s Pier 17, Jason Wu said it felt like the right time to reference that magical period via his Spring 2023 collection. “It was such a high in American fashion, and that doesn’t get celebrated enough,” he told The Hollywood Reporter backstage following his New York Fashion Week presentation. “Also, I’ve been at 35th Street and Seventh Avenue for 10 years now. That’s right in the heart of everything, all my fashion memories are there, and I love it. So instead of looking outward for inspiration, I wanted to look inward while paying tribute to the incredible talent of that era, in my own interpretation.”

Wu’s vision translated to a supremely polished collection that blended crisp tailoring with artful draping, lingerie details and lush textures. The sportswear and tailoring influences so closely aligned with his inspiration were evident from the first look, a beautifully crafted white suit jacket highlighted by sheer panels, seaming details and split sleeves, worn over an asymmetrically wrapped skirt. Satin trousers, a sheer beaded tunic and midriff-baring tops inspired by lingerie also added up to elegant statements that never felt derivative, only wholly modern. The late “Mr. Beene,” meanwhile, surely would have appreciated the asymmetry Wu employed on several of his dresses and gowns, as well as the sleek finale gown in a sheer beaded pale lilac, secured on one shoulder by the thinnest of straps.

Textural elements, such as a lush metallic fringe used to create a diamond-halter dress or an embroidery that put one in mind of wisteria, likewise were key. And a floral print on silk arose out of a discovery Wu made on Instagram. “I saw [artist] Leonardo Pucci’s work there and wanted to work with him,” he explained, adding that Pucci focuses on the Japanese art of “Shibari,” a bondage technique that highlights the juxtaposition between fragility and power. “Florals has always been an ongoing theme for me, but I loved how he takes the most beautiful, sublime flowers and creates this tension. I thought that mix of fragility and power was pretty special.”

Jason Wu fashion show NYFW 2022 © Provided by The Hollywood Reporter Jason Wu fashion show NYFW 2022

Several of the gowns easily would be standout hits at Monday night’s Emmy Awards, but Wu acknowledged it was too late for that to happen. “My work will be there, though,” he added, hinting that he was working with “a first-time nominee from one of my favorite shows.”

In the front row sat Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul’s Regina Hall, who will be a presenter Monday night. But she demurred when asked if Wu would be dressing her — a natural assumption, especially as his presentation was her first New York Fashion Week experience. “The energy of the room, to see it all in person is pretty exciting,” she said. “I also just really love Jason, both as a designer and as a person. Everything he does is whimsical, feminine and sexy, without an overt sexuality.”

A few hours later, in a Midtown event space near the United Nations, Prabal Gurung said he wanted to shine a spotlight on the notion that individuality is currently being discouraged by conservative political forces in the U.S. “Whether it’s women, feminine-leaning people or feminine-leaning ideas, there seems to be something that’s unnerving the patriarchy and the status quo,” Gurung told THR backstage prior to his show. “Hope and optimism has always been my thing, so I decided to celebrate the people who are often watched, monitored, scrutinized, rarely accepted, yet also unseen. These are my tribe and my found family.”

Gurung hit upon the idea while attending a rave in Brooklyn with his adult nephew, he said. “I was surrounded by the most incredible group of people,” he remembered. “Everything around us right now can seem pretty dystopian, so I wanted to bring these people who are always unapologetically themselves — the misfits, the odd beauties — and show how they’re leading the charge and giving me hope.”

Prabal Gurung fashion show NYFW 2022 © Provided by The Hollywood Reporter Prabal Gurung fashion show NYFW 2022

How did that inspiration manifest itself through Gurung’s designs? An emphasis on Day-Glo colors for a start, bright fluorescents in silk-chiffon solids and prints that draped off shoulders in minidresses, as an artfully tied halter with satin shorts, or as a shoulder flourish over a strapless dress of black leather. Lingerie elements, like a lace corset, viewed through a tulle gown or lace shorts under sheer pants, amped up the sexuality on these pieces, as did the Latex tights and opera-length gloves. “I wanted to create intimate moments because that’s where you might be the most vulnerable but also the most empowered,” Gurung said.

Overall Gurung’s strategy was rooted in taking elements that might not feel couture-level and then crafting them in precisely that fashion. “I just really liked the juxtaposition of ideas,” he explained. “I took strips of an acid-washed denim and created a skirt that felt very couture. A tulle gown might feel just a bit tattered as it’s falling off a shoulder. These juxtapositions are everywhere, and I wanted to highlight that.”  

He then extended his passion for the idea into the show’s casting. “It wasn’t traditional,” Gurung added. “We brought people in from many different places. I’m in a position in which I can show the world what different versions of beauty can be, and I believe in highlighting those differences, not hiding them. The people in this show are beautiful and dynamic and inspiring, and they deserve to be celebrated.”

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