With a major retrospective of the life and career of Oscar de la Renta set to open at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston next month, designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia set the stage with a spring/summer 2018 collection at New York Fashion Week that pays tribute to the legendary designer while modernizing the brand for a new clientele.
It's a tricky balancing act, but I'm guessing the master designer, who passed away in 2014, would have approved of the direction the new kids at ODLR are taking the brand, even if he might have been a little taken aback at having his name in script on dresses and spelled out in sequined jumbled letters on T-shirts and gowns.
Kim and Garcia worked for de la Renta for many years before his death and helped to create the attention-getting gown autographed with the designer's name on the hem that Sarah Jessica Parker wore to the Met Costume Institute Gala a few months before his death. It was Parker's idea — not de la Renta's — to have his name on her gown, the fashion house's co-creative directors told the Hollywood Reporter. "Oscar wasn't comfortable with it, he didn't want his name on (the Met Gala dress)," said Kim.
But that moment obviously shaped this collection, along with handwritten notes to the designer from young starlets like Emma Watson and Elle Fanning, which the duo told reporters had touched them. Several dresses, an oversized shirt, crewneck sweaters, and even a mink coat are embroidered in de la Renta's cursive writing with excerpts from those letters, along, in some cases, with a sequined heart.
The de la Renta show has always been a fashion week favorite for its elegance and high style, and the tradition continued on a top floor at Sotheby's art auction house on New York's Upper East side. Models descended on a moving escalator before making their runway walk past an eclectic crowd that included longtime society clients as well singer Nicki Minaj in a $19,000 hooded fur from the fall/winter collection that was more suited for a blizzard than balmy 80-degree weather.
The collection opened with a paint-splattered dress — perhaps a nod to the museum and the art of fashion?—along with several jeans and tops in the same motif. It's the first time longtime fashion observers could remember a de la Renta show with this much blue jean fabric, although one denim-clad model had a white mink coat slung over her shoulder.
Daytime suits— once a de la Renta staple for his ladies who lunch — were rare on the runway. Instead, the collection features cropped trousers and loose jackets in bold colors for today's stylish working woman. While longtime customers may be surprised by the change in direction in day wear, they can find comfort in the brand's evening gowns.
The new collection includes gowns with sequined embroidery that resembles dripping paint, a cream-colored column gown splattered with colors of the rainbow, tulle gowns enveloped in swirly ribbon patterns, and a strapless princess gown in cascading ombré tulle that drew gasps of delight from the audience when the model came down the escalator.
De la Renta has always been a go-to designer for the Texas society set, and this collection should keep them clamoring for more, particularly since the MFAH Grand Gala Ball on October 6 celebrates the exhibition, The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta, which opens at the museum on October 8. It should be quite a fashion show.