Behind The Scenes

Backstage at Jason Wu Fall 2012 Show (PHOTOS)

The designer debuted a collection inspired by Qing Dynasty China and Old Hollywood.

Kevin Tachman for The Daily Beast

Next fall, you might see Michelle Obama in a dress inspired by the Chinese military. It wouldn’t be a stretch, considering it was the inspiration of the Fall 2012 collection of Jason Wu, a favorite of the first lady (and the one she tapped to design her dress at the Inaugural Ball in 2009.)

Since then, Wu has continued to make a name for himself—most recently designing a capsule collection for Target, which immediately flew off the shelves. But his show on Friday afternoon marked a sharp departure from the frilly dresses and floral bags that the masses have scooped up for the spring. Wu was raised in Taiwan—literally and figuratively in China’s shadow. His fall collection, therefore, was a meditation on the concept of Chinese strength: models entered in a cloud of smoke through large, lacquered red doors reminiscent of the Forbidden City. There were Mao jackets, black silk embroidered with flowers, military green wool caps, high-slit black velvet gowns, and gold brocades. But the collection was as reminiscent of old Hollywood as it was of China—and, as his show notes explained, was inspired by a “1940’s Hollywood version of Chinese glamour, exemplified by Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express.”

Backstage, the hair and makeup reflected Wu’s inspiration. Models wore slicked-back ponytails mounted high on their heads with strips of latex that looked like masking tape. “She is very strong, and she’s ready to fight,” Odile Gilbert, hairstylist of the show, said of the Wu woman next fall. Kate Young, who counts Michelle Williams and Natalie Portman as celebrity clients, was the stylist for the show—and visited every makeup artist backstage to flash a photo on her iPhone. “Here’s a picture of the eye that Jason wants,” she told each of them. “Really dark, really strong, and super graphic.”

One face conspicuously missing from the sea of models was that of Karlie Kloss, the model who is currently one of the most famous girls on the runway. On Thursday, The Daily Beast reported that Kloss would not attend New York Fashion Week this year because of an “engagement that has come up,” her representative said, adding that Kloss has chosen instead to walk only in Paris and Milan. Despite speculation of what could have prompted Kloss to skip the lucrative Fashion Week—some were less than fazed. “I think people don’t realize that models take off a city at a time,” said model Coco Rocha, who now covers Fashion Week as a correspondent for New York magazine. “It can help a career because people want you more.”