American Marketer


Oscar de la Renta looks back as it moves forward

February 9, 2015

Oscar de la Renta dress on display at SCAD Oscar de la Renta dress on display at SCAD


U.S. fashion label Oscar de la Renta’s late eponymous founder is the subject of a retrospective at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Curated by his friend Andre Leon Talley, "Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style" includes pieces from some of the designer’s closest clients, including first ladies and celebrities. This is the first look back at Mr. de la Renta’s career since he passed, giving the brand an opportunity to look back at its history as it takes a step forward with new creative director Peter Copping’s first runway show in February.

"Iconic fashion rings eternal," Paul Farkas, co-founder/CEO of Accessory 2, New York. "Marking his fifth exhibition at SCAD Museum of Art, long-time friend Talley dynamically showcases the world of Oscar de la Renta, pulling from his beloved wife's, first ladies' and prominent clients' and industry closets.

"The delicate art of fine curation is indeed one of smart narrative, strong passion and deep connection," he said. "Among the exhibit are importable and cherished gowns, dresses, jackets and pants that have graced several Met Galas, Presidential Inaugurations and key photo shoots and wardrobes.

"The fact that Talley used arrangements like rooms of conversations invokes a sense of special timeless occasion, human connectivity and personification

"Reflecting and memorializing is about coming together, celebrating his contributions and stylistic points of view."

Mr. Farkas is not affiliated with Oscar de la Renta or SCAD, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

Oscar de la Renta and SCAD were unable to comment by press deadline.

Personal touch
The revered and cherished fashion designer Oscar de la Renta died on Oct. 20, after a long battle with cancer.

Known for crafting the dresses worn by numerous first ladies and celebrities, Mr. de la Renta charmed the world with color and extravagance during several decades as a designer. Up until the end of his life the designer sustained his brand and influenced the fashion industry (see story).


Oscar de la Renta

Before his death, it was announced that designer Peter Copping, who had previously worked at Nina Ricci, would be joining the brand as creative director (see story). In his new position, Mr. Copping gave a presentation for pre-fall in December, but he has yet to put on a runway show.

As fashion week nears, Mr. de la Renta is getting his own time in the spotlight with an exhibit at the SCAD Museum of Art running from Feb. 5 through May 3. The retrospective centers on the strong bond between the designer and his clients, and celebrates the relationship he had with SCAD, as he took a personal interest in students, gifting fabrics from his collections for their use and taking on a number of them as interns.


SCAD exhibit

More than garments are included in the retrospective, including gowns worn by Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Oprah Winfrey. Also on loan from presidential museums are ensembles worn by Hilary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush.

Vogue editor Anna Wintour also lent a sable collared coat from the designer’s time at Balmain. Other pieces, including a flamenco skirt, show his interpretation of the French house from 1993 to 2002.

Adding a personal touch, Mr. de la Renta’s wife Annette’s attire is also on display. In addition, items from personal closets of clients are included.


Apparel from Annette de la Renta on display

Fleshing out the show are pieces from the Oscar de la Renta archive, including a red evening gown worn by Beyoncé for a Vogue cover in March 2013.

The exhibit is open to the public with the price of museum admission. To let its own consumers know about the exhibit, Oscar de la Renta posted about it on social media.

An accompanying book by Mr. Talley will be published by Rizzoli, extending the impact of the exhibit.

Creative shift
Mr. de la Renta's connection to presidential fashion has been studied before.

The fashion brand reinforced its eponymous designer’s affiliation with first ladies of the United States with a retrospective at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas.

“Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style” looked at the designer’s career, from his beginnings in Spain through the present day, including the gowns created for a number of presidential wives. This set Mr. de la Renta up as more than a designer, but an institution in the U.S. (see story).

Similarly to Oscar de la Renta, Louis Vuitton recently transitioned from its first ready-to-wear creative director.

LVMH’s Louis Vuitton acquired Balenciaga’s creative director Nicolas Ghesquière Nov. 4 as artistic director of its women’s collections to fill the gap left by Marc Jacobs.

Mr. Ghesquière will begin his post immediately and is expected to show his first autumn collection March 2014. The new creative director will help the heritage brand groom its ever-expanding global assets and instill the aura of exclusivity that he mastered at Balenciaga (see story).

This particular exhibit's timing may spur even more interest in the subject matter.

"At its core, the true immersive nature of the collection necessitates being there and cannot transcend digitally or socially," Mr. Farkas said. "It is a necessary tribute to honor the designer, his work and impact.

"Surely it's well-timed and a can't-miss retrospective," he said. "There is a lot of buzz already, many will travel far and wide to experience and enjoy, perhaps the exhibit will travel to extend regionally for more to see, enjoy and feel."

Final Take
Sarah Jones, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York