It's Oscar time in Houston, as legendary designer Oscar de la Renta is the focus of two major art and fashion events in the Bayou City.
The brand, a favorite of Houston's social set, was front-and-center at the Bayou Bend Fashion Show and Luncheon, as the fall collection, under the direction of new designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, was showcased before a crowd of 250 under a tent set up on the lush 14-acre estate donated to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston by philanthropist Ima Hogg in 1957.
The appearance of the collection in Houston was so important to the brand that de la Renta's son-in-law, CEO Alex Bolen, and his wife (and de la Renta's stepdaughter) Eliza Bolen, the company's executive vice president, flew in from New York, where they shared a prime table with their close friend, Lynn Wyatt, and luncheon chair Phoebe Tudor.
Since de la Renta's death in 2014, the brand has experience some turmoil but is getting a wave of positive publicity under the direction of Kim and Garcia, who were longtime assistants to the legendary designer.
It was also an emotional day for Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Gary Tinterow, who recalled that 25 years ago de la Renta's wife, Annette de la Renta, had endowed his curator position at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in honor of her mother, philanthropist Jane Englehard. Tinterow had worked at the Met for 28 years, eventually running the departments of 19th-century, Modern and contemporary art, before taking the top Houston job in 2015.
"Both Mrs. Englehard and Mrs. de la Renta were steadfast supporters of my career and all of my activities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and were key supporters of that great institution. So it's very exciting to welcome Eliza and Alex here," Tinterow said.
He also revealed that the Bolens will be back in Houston in the fall for a retrospective of de le Renta's work at the MFAH and the museum's Grand Gala Ball. "We are going to preview some of the fashions we hope to see you in next October in Cullinan Hall at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston," Tinterow said, as a teaser to the runway show, which featured brushstroke embroidered cocktail dresses, draped lamé gowns, and black velvet tuxedos.
"We are so looking forward to coming back in October for the retrospective of Oscar's works," Alex Bolen told the crowd, adding that designers Kim and Garcia will join them. "They are in Italy working on the next collection, but they will be here in October."
Since a big tent is already set up for the Bayou Bend Garden Party every April, organizers got the idea to add an annual fashion show that, in its second year, has already become a prime seen-and-be-seen spot on the spring social calendar as attendees sport colorful floral dresses in keeping with the season's styles.
The Galleria and Simon Property Group underwrote the de la Renta runway show with Saks Fifth Avenue as retail partner. Seen in the crowd were Saks Fifth Avenue general manager Bobby Dees, Hallie Vanderhider, Elyse Lanier (sporting a new platinum blonde look), Courtney Sarofim, Kelli Kickerillo, Cornelia Long, Martha Long, Laura Arnold, Rose Cullen, Diane Lokey Farb, Isabel David, Yvonne Cormier, Nancy Kinder, Soraya McClelland, and Luvi Wheelock.