This wasn’t exactly the way anyone intended for Peter Copping to make his debut as creative director for Oscar de la Renta. When de la Renta hired Copping last October, it was assumed by everyone, especially Copping, that the two designers would work alongside each other for a season or two, letting Copping get a feel for the house aesthetic and better understand Oscar’s dreams and desires for his brand. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be and shortly after making the announcement of Copping’s hire, the venerable Dominican whose signature was a symbol of class and elegance in women’s wear, passed away on November 3.
As editors, buyers, and long-time friends and family gathered to see the Oscar de la Renta Fall/Winter collection, there were more than a few tissues in hand, more than a few dabs at eyes, and, so I’m told, that included Copping. Even one of Oscar’s favorite models, Karlie Kloss, was seated with best friend Taylor Swift, watching rather than walking. This was probably the most emotional I’ve ever seen a fashion show audience, as though tonight’s presentation was somehow the final page in an on-going memorial. Just last week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would honour the designer who so strongly identified with New York by naming a street after him. Then, tonight, with careful thought and well-placed steps, the page turned.
Oscar de la Renta’s reasons for choosing Peter Copping as his successor were obvious from the very first piece down the runway: a simple white dress with a mock turtle collar under a black coat with sequined embellishment; graceful, eloquent, and classically feminine. Such qualities have always been present in Copping’s designs for the Nina Rici label, so there was little question that he would be able to successfully adapt to the ODLR style. There were appliqued gemstones and large rose patterns exactly as Oscar would have done. Gowns were full and glamorous while daywear was classicly styled and incredibly feminine.
I doubt anyone expected Copping to make too strong a statement in this collection. His touches were more subtle: the placement of a ruffle here, straps of vertical sheer panels there, a hitch in the hemline, an unexpected pop of color. For Copping, the past three months have been similar to a child who was a strong enough pool swimmer being suddenly tossed into the shark-infested waters of the ocean. He was careful in how he made his mark this season, something most ODLR fans appreciated. Tonight was about reassuring the faithful that the qualities that made the brand strong and popular are going to remain, and Copping achieved that goal.
No one wanted to see Oscar go so suddenly, but with a very careful touch and assurances that he will remain true to the house aesthetic, perhaps the extended Oscar de la Renta family is now ready to move on, to turn the page with Copping, and give him the freedom to take the label with all its glamour and classic styling into the future. We will miss Oscar’s wave at the end of each show, but we welcome Peter’s polite bow in its place.
Good luck, Mr. Copping. Rest in peace, Mr. de la Renta; your clothes are in good hands.