Jason Wu did what few designers dare during New York Fashion Week: He put on a live show Sunday with a tiny audience present in the middle of a pandemic.
“I think the world needs beauty and optimism,” the designer told The Associated Press after his beach-themed show. “New York Fashion Week is not over. It is strong. We’re here. ... We can all be safe, be gathered and still be able to celebrate.”
With 30 models on a wooden boardwalk surrounded by tropical plants and sand on a downtown rooftop, Wu spaced 36 guests at a safe distance apart as he took his audience to Mexico's Tulum, the Yucatan Peninsula spot where he got married.
Temperatures were checked and health questionnaires filled out before guests sat down.
The show was livestreamed on a new digital platform where most designers will be displaying their wares without the usual in-person crowds during this season's abbreviated fashion week that opened Sunday. Christian Siriano and Rebecca Minkoff were among other designers to decide on in-person but pared down audiences this time around.
The clothes Wu rolled out, with Indya Moore among his models, are part of a more casual women's line he treated to its first runway show. For spring 2021, he dressed his models in tropical yellows, oranges and pinks. Some of his sun dresses and breezy looks came in playful floral prints.
Models sported wide-brimmed sun hats. More used to sky-high heels, they were also treated to an IT item of the moment: strappy Teva-style sandals elevated with bows and beads above flat rubber soles.
For his bow along the curved, planked runway, Wu wore a mask he designed emblazoned with “Distance Yourself from Hate.” It's the name of a campaign in partnership with the talent agency The Collective Shift and the HIV and AIDS advocacy organization GMHC in New York, his home for more than 20 years.
Proceeds from the $30 masks he gave to each guest go to those in need throughout the city. In addition, the black-and-white print chairs used by his small audience will be donated for a new dining room at GMHC, where the organization will serve more than 350 meals daily when it fully opens. More than 2,000 masks have been sold since June.
Wu designed the chairs as part of a collaboration with the hardware store giant Lowe's.
The experience overall, however brief, was part love letter to New York and part “mini vacation,” said Wu, who hasn't seen his family in Taiwan since the pandemic began.
“For a second, I feel like I'm in paradise,” he said.