A Close-Up Look at Oscar de la Renta’s New Vibe

It is exceptionally hard to get an industry veteran to say that something’s new. Everything’s cyclical, everything’s referential, everything is Balenciaga or Céline. That the two (new) Creative Directors of Oscar de la Renta — a reliable, iconic American design house with tradition sewn in — managed to get New York’s fashion set whispering “This is new” already feels like something.

A big chunk of newness was in the show’s execution. Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia head up both Oscar de la Renta and their own label, Monse. Because it is rare for a creative director, or co-creative directors, to design for two different brands based in the same city, Kim and Garcia held one show after the other on Monday evening. Monse went first; Oscar followed. The cast of models differed and the set was altered, but the seats did not change. There was no intermission. The message that came from PR is that the duo have two distinct points of view — one for Oscar, one for Monse — and both can live in unison. The message that came from the designers of was simple: we can do this.

Monse looked like Monse. Going forward, this will be the outlet where Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia can take risks, get weird, make mistakes and play.

Oscar de la Renta, meanwhile, will be a legacy cherished.

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I previewed the new ODLR collection on Sunday, one day before it would show to the public. The Oscar de la Renta atelier — the same one Mr. de la Renta used to design from — was alive with the hand stitching of a million finishing touches, the closing of serendipitous loops. Kim started as an intern and worked for 10 years at Oscar prior to this juncture in her life; before Monse, Garcia was at Oscar for six. They worked with Mr. de la Renta closely. They understand the customer, the aesthetic, the enormous pressure of this brand. It is hard to extract the fact that so much of the magic came from Oscar himself. But that doesn’t mean this new take cannot be wonderful.

The necessary Oscar ballgowns and prim suits were present. Intricate, expert beading and all the drama of a sash reminded viewers (who needed no reminding) what show they were seeing. If you buy Oscar or bought Oscar then remarked that it got too far away from the house’s original intention, breathe a sigh of relief: this house is still your home. But there were also the injections of two young people who have so much energy that they can balance the stress of all of this (twice times however many collections they’ll produce per year) and deliver. Easier to admire in person than on the runway were the skintight, striped, under-ski wear as head-to-ankle clothes and the sponge wool coats. Color clashing isn’t revolutionary, but it looked cool in this context. A pink suit with a sequined corset is exactly the kind of thing that will be fought over by stylists for celebrity clients and magazines.

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I was told that some of the dresses — the ones with the gathered fabric at the hips — were meant to mimic the folded draping that occurs when women hike up their skirts [to actually move/to show off their shoes/to dance]. And that image, one of an elegant woman letting loose in a formal venue, has stuck with me. Here we have a beautiful gown, nothing new about that. But this one allows the new and old Oscar de la Renta fans alike to celebrate, hands-free.

Photos by Krista Anna Lewis; Runway Photos via Vogue Runway.


Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond is a writer, creative consultant, and Man Repeller alumnus living in New York City.

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