Once upon a time, setting your new season collection amidst the humdrum of a ubiquitous setting like a grocery store would have aimed to rupture the norm. It might have added a little Warhol pop-modernism. It might have formed a cute juxtaposition. But these days, dolling up only to be sighted by barrels of apples and oranges is, just, something people do now.

Jason Wu kicked off New York Fashion Week today with a presentation touted as Mr Wu’s General Store. The designer, whose name has been gaining traction ever since Michelle Obama viscerally proclaimed allegiance with her Inauguration gown in 2009, is clearly making lemonade out of lemons. And, sort of, literally, too. During the lockdown, Wu has not only been working on a new beauty line and his ever-growing fashion empire, he’s also been meditatively curing monotony via his social alter-ego MrWuEats. He has been documenting his chefy prowess, even adding how-to content for likeminded home cooks. His love for food is palpable and today, his two personas met for a lavish ode to the romance of New York market shopping.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 14: Models walk the runway at the Jason Wu Runway during New York Fashion Week: The Shows on February 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

Once upon a time, setting your new season collection amidst the humdrum of a ubiquitous setting like a grocery store would have aimed to rupture the norm. It might have added a little Warhol pop-modernism. It might have formed a cute juxtaposition. But these days, dolling up only to be sighted by barrels of apples and oranges is, just, something people do now.

Jason Wu kicked off New York Fashion Week today with a presentation touted as Mr Wu’s General Store. The designer, whose name has been gaining traction ever since Michelle Obama viscerally proclaimed allegiance with her Inauguration gown in 2009, is clearly making lemonade out of lemons. And, sort of, literally, too. During the lockdown, Wu has not only been working on a new beauty line and his ever-growing fashion empire, he’s also been meditatively curing monotony via his social alter-ego MrWuEats. He has been documenting his chefy prowess, even adding how-to content for likeminded home cooks. His love for food is palpable and today, his two personas met for a lavish ode to the romance of New York market shopping.

The Canadian-American 38-year-old, who was born in Taiwan, started this year’s ready-to-wear grand slam with a runway laden with grocery stalls. Brimming with fruit and veg, models sauntered the indoor-outdoor setting in pieces you’d likely see on a very fashionable woman as she grazes the best of the season. This posing, perhaps unintentionally, offered not only a fresh and fragrant scene, but a nostalgia for times when one could peruse the gourmets of Dean & Deluca or the rustic abundance of the farmers markets, swishing past olive oils and pails of fresh cut blooms all amongst a vibrant and bustling crowd.

This romance for physicality, even in the most daily of activities, was a discourse here. As one of only two designers opting for an in-person show this year (along with Rebecca Minkoff, the rest are live streaming or offering digital alternatives), Wu captured something we’ve all been missing – the pure, taken-for-granted beauty of the “old normal”.

The collection itself orchestrated an update on wearable, feminine ensembles. Pieces like beaded, slouchy knits, pleated full-length skirts and pussy-bow blouses were packaged up by a variety of outerwears – tassled leathers, tweedy plaid coats and spongey puffas – offering a kind of complete fall wardrobe.

The majority of footwear was of the patent boot variety. Snakeskin, pale pink and aubergine in an array of lengths that anchored the overall look to a vaguely 70’s era. The khaki knitted skirt-and-turtleneck set, along with the roomy drawstring tunic of the same hue, were particularly chic.

Wu collaborated with Coca-Cola for the collection, with vintage-style bottles on offer for the socially distant crowd, but it was his partnership with City Harvest that granted the event earnest notability. In the lead up, Wu had been been quick to explain that this live-fresh venture was part of a broader message. That all produce would be donated immediately after the show via the charity organisation. New York has been hit hard by the pandemic and food shortage is dangerously high. As reported by WWD (via analysis by Robin Hood) it’s estimated that in the past twelve months one in three New Yorkers have visited a food pantry.

Curating a collection for a time beyond the pandemic will likely be a trend amongst designers this coming fashion month. As the anniversary of the pandemic’s beginning passes the longing for wears from our lives-of-old gets stronger. While we might still need the track pants more than the leather culottes and the Ugg’s more than the textured leather ankle boots, fashion is all about what’s next. Here’s hoping Wu is on the right track.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 14: Designer Jason Wu poses with models backstage at the Jason Wu Runway during New York Fashion Week: The Shows on February 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)
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