New Wave for Wu

Many fashion designers find inspiration in icons of the past. For example, Milly designer Michelle Smith cited Peggy Guggenheim as her muse for her current spring season, featuring strong color and a bit of edgy eccentricity mixed with her usual uptown style. For resort my favorite inspirational combination was Jason Wu’s nod to Anna Karina, the Danish born muse of the French Nouvelle Vague.

In addition to his usual signature dresses, he added tweed short suits, striped bateau tops, trench coats and beautiful jabot blouses, representing an updated version of 60’s Parisian chic. On each attendee’s seat was a box of macaroons and as the pastel colors attested, Wu explained “I wanted it to feel like dessert.”

photo kevin sturman

Karina’s story is a classic. After an unhappy childhood in Copenhagen, she ventured to Paris as a teenager, with no money and without being able to speak the language. She was discovered by a modeling agency scout at Les Deux Magots, the famous cafe, quickly becoming a success on the runway. A chance meeting with Coco Chanel, who suggested she change her name, resulted in the Anna Karina we know today. Her big break of course was meeting Jean-Luc Godard while filming a Palmolive commercial. He offered her a part in Breathless, which she refused due to the requisite nude scene. He persisted and she eventually took the part in Le Petit Soldat which cemented both her reputation and her relationship with Godard who she married in 1961. Her sultry smokey-eyed look combined with an almost school girl style rendered her irresistible, with a full fringed do that made bangs a must have everywhere.

The couple went on to make seven films together, their next the memorable Une Femme est une Femme. Filmed without a script, the actors also wore their own clothes. It is these trenches, sundresses, ballet flats and nautical references that established her as the style icon of the French new wave and that Wu brings to this collection.

And if this shot of her from Vivre Sa Vie looks familiar, it’s because Karina’s character in this film was the basis for Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction.

Talk a look here and see.

However, my favorite little clip is this one from Band à Part, made two years later. Tarantino may have modeled Thurman after Karina’s character in Vivre Sa Vie, but he loved this film so much, that he named his production company after it – Band of Outsiders.

One of Karina’s last films with Godard was Pierrot le Fou. And it is here where her signature style is really perfected. How incredibly contemporary do these shots look?

pierrot le fou photos via contrastvassar

In channeling Karina, Wu clearly took inspiration from her very classic nautical and feminine styles, combining them with his tailored day wear and fluid flowing dresses.

all collection photos by Maria Valentino/

As I was finishing this piece, I discovered that did an entire feature on Anna Karina (what can I say – great minds…) – it differs a bit from here so feel free to mosey on over there as well.

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55 Responses to New Wave for Wu

  1. Thanks a lot for your comment. I also discovered your blog via The Luxe Chronicles and am currently going through your archives – loving it of course!

    • quintessence says:

      FA – I found you through Luxe Chronicles as well. As soon as I read the title – or subtitle – of your site I knew I would like it! So glad you stopped by.

  2. Wonderful post! Anna Karina was my style icon in my early 20s. In high school it was Annie Hall, but after I found Une Femme et une Femme, there was no comparison in my mind! To think I went to film school because of that film! Anyway, I love all the great clips you posted here–so fun!

    xo mary jo

    • quintessence says:

      Hi Mary Jo – I didn’t know you went to film school?! I have a son in college who is minoring in film (they don’t have a film major). You’re full of interesting surprises. And obviously I love her as well!!

  3. p gaye tapp says:

    a real charmer, dare say she has inspired before Wu and will again. A thorough classic in every way. In fact nothing beats the original. pgt

  4. Nautical and feminine – I like it! The tweed suits and stripes are too fun.

  5. That is one of my favourite posts, ever!!! She is so beautiful and Wu’s collection inspired by her is feminine and charming. I would love to wear a few of those pieces myself:) Happy Tuesday, darling

  6. Heather says:

    Tweed and stripes ummmm have to look for the combo in interiors, very intriguing. A really lovely informative post! Thank you.

  7. I love the brilliant turquoise trim on that jacket!

  8. Wu has captured the essence of charm and sophistication. What a fantastic collection!

  9. Barbara says:

    Fantastic post! I wish I had the face for Karina-style bangs… perfection. ; )

  10. Ann says:

    OMG I’m drooling over those clothes and the Connecticut in me always comes out when I see something nautical. Love that stripped top and white pants. Love the back story too! Thanks for sharing.

    • quintessence says:

      Hi Ann – Isn’t it a wonderful collection? I always love anything nautical – can’t tell you how many striped tops I have!

  11. These clothes are seriously gorgeous! Classic and simple, yet beautiful.
    Thank you for sharing. After this week, I am ready for some spring.
    Have a wonderful day.

    • quintessence says:

      Hi Teresa – I think this was a terrific collection for him. I’m not quite in the spring mode yet and since I’ll be seeing the fall shows before the weather changes, I don’t know when I’ll get my head turned around for it!

  12. I love fashion, so I’m loving this great post, my chic friend! ;-)


    Luciane at

  13. Jason Wu’s collection is like a tempting dessert and your post is icing on the cake! Love the pictures of Pierrot Le Fou since I had serious crush on Jean-Pierre Belmondo when I was growing up.

  14. Kelly says:

    Great post…I always feel like I learn so much here! What a wonderful inspiration for a collection. I feel inspired myself after seeing those pictures – especially the army jacket and plaid pants look….so sweet!

    xo Kelly

    p.s. I am OBSESSED with that embroidered knit sweater – I first spied it yesterday on

    • quintessence says:

      Hi Kelly – Thank you! She was SO effortlessly chic. The sweater is beautiful and there are many more lovely pieces in the collection!

  15. Usually when people show runway shots there are 1 or 2 pieces I like and often nothing I feel I could wear, not today. I love every single outfit and want them all! You are so right on with how current the old photos look. They could be pulled from a magazine today, timeless and what looks like effortless chic. I’m inspired.

    • quintessence says:

      Hi Jeanette – Yes, this was a great collection – effortless chic is always the name of the game in my book!!

  16. abby jenkins says:

    Oui! Those photos of her at the beach and with those awesome plaid pants look like they could have come right out of this month’s Vogue! Magnifique!

  17. Wonderful, Q. Great post.

  18. Terrific, terrific post and so nice to have a glimpse of spring today.

    • quintessence says:

      Hello Mrs. B. – Thank you! And yes, spring was nice for a moment, especially since they’re predicting 12-20″ for us tonight!!

  19. You have inspired me to go and watch some of her films. Great post. Thank you xx

  20. Thank you for the historical look at this woman — what a star!

  21. The Zhush says:

    Fabulous post! Looking at Wu’s collection now through new eyes! The older photos do look incredibly current…your right! And, I had NO idea about the Quetin Tarrantino references…amazing!

    • quintessence says:

      Hi Zhush – Thank you! Love this whole era – and obviously so does Tarantino! I know you must be so excited for all the additional snow we’re getting this evening :-)

  22. ooh wonderful post! so many lovely looks!

    xo Alison

  23. jule at BV says:

    Beautiful lines based on the classic. It’s always inspiring.

    I’m hosting a fantastic giveaway. Would you come and enter?

  24. Very feminine and flattering. Love know the background.
    Mary Ann

  25. Meant to say I love knowing the background. My fingers weren’t working fast enough. Thanks!

    • quintessence says:

      Hi Mary Ann- no problem – my computer must be male because “he” sends things before I’m ready all the time!

  26. Blue Fruit says:

    How enchantingly delectable are these outfits? Any one of Karina’s outfits would work as well right now as they do captured on film for history’s sake. And I particularly love the cream wide legged paints and stripey top number from the catwalk – yum!

    • quintessence says:

      Hi Blue Fruit – Isn’t it a lovely collection – I love the same outfit?! And yes, her style is so timeless that it looks completely contemporary.

  27. Stacey says:

    Karina is quite an enchanting beauty and Wu’s collection is flawless! Your posts are always very enlightening. I feel well -learned after i leave here:-). XX

    • quintessence says:

      Hi Stacey – Thank you! I’ve always loved Karina – she’s a timeless and as you say enchanting style icon.

  28. To The Tens says:

    The Spring show looks amazing, I can’t wait to see the clothes in person and have the weather to wear them! Love all the background on the show – so many times the designers vision is passed over once the pictures/clothes hit…great details!

    • quintessence says:

      TTT – I thought this was a terrific line for him. And I always love the inspiration – puts it all in context!

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