Jason Wu

On Friday afternoon, something resembling an unofficial kick-off to New York Fashion Week was about to get underway on Soho’s Mercer Street. All the signs of a mega-event were there: the army of street-style snappers lurking on the cobblestones, the row of gridlocked Cadillac Escalades, and Bill Cunningham and Anna Wintour in the front row.

Hello, Jason Wu. We do believe you’ve made it.

The designer, named Hugo Boss’s new creative director in June, brought the full power of his heightened industry standing to bear on his spring summer 2014 show. This was a statement-maker, starting with the model cast: from opener Karen Elson to finale-gown-wearer Karlie Kloss, Wu wrangled almost every top runway model out there to wear his clothes. (If Edie Campbell was missing because her flight just landed at JFK, 'new Edie' Sam Rollinson represented.)

The designs showed ambition to match the model line-up. Hewing to a restrained palette of gold, sand, white and black, interspersed with the merest hints of pigment from sage and navy blue, these garments were all about the body. Metallic embroidered dresses flowed over figures like fish scales; corset-style ties hinted at curves from the backs of trench coats. Wu introduced a hit of last season’s transparency in shimmery, sheer, embroidered skirts and dresses, like the skirt paired with a heavy navy jumper.

Some elements didn’t work—a khaki fabric seemed too stiff for some of the should-have-been-slinkier shapes, and satin utility pockets on the bodices of sheer silk shirts and dresses jarred with a lack of real-world applicability (do you know any women who crave cargo pockets for their boobs?). But the best of the designs recalled mid-1990s Calvin Klein-style minimalism plus safari style, injected with Wu’s signature sex appeal—the element that makes some of the steeliest women in showbiz and politics melt. The finale gowns in particular had front-rower Alicia Keys nodding along.

Wu called the collection ‘a dialogue between construction and ease.’ He’s right—this is one show sure to keep NYFW audiences talking.