Can silk ever be a casual fabric? That’s something I find myself wondering on the back side of this Uma Wang spring/summer collection. While the looks were certainly more pedestrian and less formal, the fabric was steeped in a level of luxury that seemed to argue as to where the general aesthetic might land.

What we may need to consider is where this young designer is going. Wang (unrelated to either Alexander or Vera) has exploded onto the international fashion market and has just recently become the best selling Chinese fashion designer n the world. As such, not only is her style highly influential, but so are her business practices to a plethora of burgeoning fashion designers across the Asian continent and related islands. This young woman may very well be leading the charge in an era that may soon see a domination of Asian designers. She is considering her steps carefully.

In making heavy use of silk, Want utilizes a material that is, on one hand, considered  very luxurious throughout Western markets while at the same time holds a tremendous amount of traditional value at home. Her careful use of stripes is can come off a bit as pajama wear to those of us in the U.S. but is more common and expected in certain regions of China. Her very large and roomy silhouettes are perfectly on trend for what we’ve been seeing from most everyone else this season, but at the same time, when one looks carefully, hold many similarities to more traditional Chinese designs, simply fastened with carefully placed draw strings rather than belts.

Much of this collection could be described as modest. The color palette is muted, blending deep reds and blues with naturally toned browns and an occasional black. There nothing short, nothing fitted, and nothing plunging. The few times Ms. Want utilizes sheer panels, she does so with great care and consideration toward preserving modesty. While these are very attractive and functional clothes there is nothing about them that is the least bit provocative. In fact, were a more common material used, such as poplin, the collection might be considered downright boring.

Yet, it is the silk that makes the looks come alive, defining their movement, the suppleness of their draping, and even the luxury and luster of their overall aesthetic. These don’t feel  like casual clothes, despite their silhouettes. One is likely to feel just as well off in an Uma Wang dress as she would in an outfit by one of those other Wangs. Is this comfortable luxury or luxurious casual? I’m just not sure.

Uma Wang still isn’t getting too much attention from the Western press, but I have a feeling that may change in coming seasons. With common sense style and careful fabric choices like this, she is setting a very strong example for everyone who is watching. If you’re not one of those paying attention, you likely should be.

Photo credit: Gio Staiano

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