Carolyn Murphy Aces Her Jason Wu Runway

“Ladylike” is the adjective most often associated with Jason Wu’s collections, but this afternoon, he brought sexy back to runway. Wu’s dazzling collection set the bar high on the opening day of Fashion Week. With not a floral or pastel in sight, Wu’s spring palette was primarily black—often transparent—with splashes of white, hot coral, and midnight blue. Bondage-style harnesses, sheer black full-length gloves, and sky-high stilettos seduced, as Wu’s bold new vision (which met with extended cheers from the audience) included collaborating with La Perla on several lingerie-inspired pieces.

Wu told us that the collection was inspired by photographers Helmut Newton and Lillian Bassman. “I’m a huge fan. Helmut Newton’s work was provocative and sexy; Bassman was dreamlike, ethereal, classic. I liked the contrast between the two, but the common ground was their appreciation of the feminine form. The concentration on the female body led me to work with La Perla on this beautiful lingerie and really push the craftsmanship element, with the mixture of hard and soft, leather and lace, tulle with a harness. It’s my version of the sexy, confident woman.”

It’s a collection Carrie Bradshaw would have loved; and serendipitously, the new Carrie Bradshaw, AnnaSophia Robb, watched intently from the front row. The Soul Surfer star will be filling Sarah Jessica Parker’s Manolos in the CW’s hotly anticipated Sex and the City prequel, The Carrie Diaries.

Robb, who was wearing a Jason Wu miniskirt and alice + olivia pumps, said, “Jason makes the most elegant but modern clothing. The show was so beautiful.” The 18-year-old actress described her own style as “very Jason Wu, but also a little bit of everything. I want to be age appropriate.”

Robb is doing extensive fashion research this week, taking in the shows of Rebecca Minkoff, Charlotte Ronson, and alice + olivia, among others. She has already shot The Carrie Diaries pilot, which depicts Carrie’s introduction to New York. Shooting begins in October for the midseason series, which debuts in January.

Sarah Jessica Parker sent Robb “a really wonderful note, encouraging me,” said Robb. “It’s definitely a different show but with a similar flavor to Sex and the City. We know we could never be Sex and the City, so we’re not trying to be.”

Speaking of style icons, there was an audible gasp of delight when Carolyn Murphy, a premiere supermodel from 1995-2005, opened the show. A longtime friend of Wu’s, Murphy told us that this will be the sole show she walks in this Fashion Week. Having not taken to the runways (which she dominated) for years, she told us she was “Scared sick! My stomach was in my throat. I tried a lot of Bach remedies, but they’re not champagne, which is what we used to be given backstage years ago!” she laughed. Murphy hasn’t exactly had a quiet retirement: “I shot my first season of Project Runway All Stars, as the host. That’s airing next month. Jason Wu and I kind of reconnected there. I’ve been taking random classes and moving back to New York from California and raising a 12-year-old daughter.” She’s also been the face of Estee Lauder for 12 years.

There are few models today who could actually be termed “supermodels,” but Karlie Kloss is one of the very few. She walked in one of Wu’s closing gowns, an exquisite, glittering cloud of dark blue tulle. “He always wants a strong, confident woman, and the feeling of collection was feminine and delicate but powerful,” she told us of Wu’s instructions.

Hours before, Kloss spent a very busy Fashion’s Night Out. She told us that she spent her summer vacation in Denmark with her family to visit relatives and developing vegan “Karlie’s Cookies” for Lauren Bush’s charity, FEED, which they promoted last night at DKNY. “And I was hustling, I was working last night!” she said. “I was also at Juicy Couture for a hot minute, then went to a celebratory dinner.” Kloss was running off to Rag and Bone after Wu’s show and shot for Vogue the next day. “I have to miss Alexander Wang and Prabal and a bunch of others,” she said. As for how many shows she’s walking in this week, the in-demand Kloss said, “I never know, I’m clueless. It’s one day at a time. I just go where they tell me!”