I knew this season would be different. I was even prepared for this collection to feel off just a bit. But the Oscar de la Renta show just finished and what I saw on the runway just now was nothing even close to Oscar de la Renta. The team that came out at the end, and they all came out applauding themselves, needs to go back and take a whole new look at what Oscar de la Renta is and start all over at the beginning.
I’m not willing to believe that this is what ODLR’s CEO, Alex Boling (the late designer’s son-in-law) intended for the label. Okay, so Peter Copping didn’t work out. When he left the company in July, the suddenness of it all wreaked of a disagreement over creative control. Neither side is saying anything, of course, but I certainly liked Copping’s past two shows a lot better than I did this one. Copping understands the house aesthetic and what the ODLR woman wants in a gown. He understands refinement and elegance.
Long-time ODLR designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia have been hired as co-creative directors, but that announcement came last week, far too late to have any impact on this collection. If they are forced to keep the current design team, which could happen, we could see the label move even farther away from the elegance the house once knew. I have a very bad feeling about this entire situation.
Those who have loved Oscar de la Renta over the years have come to expect certain things from an ODLR collection. We expect feminine silhouettes. We expect whole bolts of chiffon taffeta, and tulle. We expect an entire garden’s worth of flowers. Perhaps more than anything, we expect impeccable detail and bead work. NONE of those things were present with any volume in today’s collection.
Instead, we’ve given a set of overly-simplistic dresses that look very much like something we might expect from a Parson’s graduating class. They were nice, they followed all the rules, but they were painfully plain and uninteresting. The silhouettes of the first six dresses looked like something that better belonged in a convent. Only the laser-cut lace saved them from going completely over that ledge. There were some modest floral prints in black on white, but they were a shadow of the glamor that Oscar would have given them. They were plain. There was no extra effort. There was no shimmer, no bead work, no attention to the smaller details.
Instead, we got crop tops and tiered layers of ruffles. Do you have any idea how many times just today I’ve seen more interesting crop tops and a better use of layered ruffles? I don’t even like layered ruffles but would still prefer a Carolina Herrera dress to anything I saw here. There was also a lot of unadorned solid colors in this collection, something Oscar adamantly avoided in most situations (I think I can remember two such dresses in the previous 30 years). Oscar would, at the very least, add a contrasting stripe at them or around the collar.
Silhouettes in this collection are most disappointing. The lines are too straight, too void of the curves Oscar celebrated. The silhouettes are too narrow. There was only once in the entire collection that we saw a silhouette that came remotely close to the house aesthetic. Once, in a collection of 45 pieces. Which raises another issue: there were only 45 pieces. His last season, Oscar sent 65 pieces down the runway. The man worked hard and expected the people around him to work equally hard. A 45-piece collection from the Oscar de la Renta label is only two-thirds a collection.
I cannot overstate how profoundly disappointed I am in this collection. Yes, there is some embroidery here and there and where it occurs it is very well done. There’s not nearly enough of it, though. Where are the giant floral prints? Where is the head-to-toe beadwork? Where is the crisp elegance and refinement we expect from this label?
When I think of finale pieces, I think of Oscar’s grand gowns, always so sparkling and beautiful, especially those worn in later years by Karly Kloss. Today’s finale looked more like someone grabbed a bolt of cloth, wrapped it around the model, and stitched quickly before sending her down the runway. Today’s dress doesn’t deserve to even hang in the same closet as any of Oscar’s dresses.
We can appreciate that this might just be an off season for the legendary brand. If Copping was unhappy and Boling was being contrary, I can see where the design team might have had no direction and, needing something to show, just slapped things together from a set of hurried sketches. If one stretches (a lot) one can make a modest connection between today’s shows and Oscar’s designs from the 1970s. We can possibly forgive them for one season. But if this is the direction that Boling wants Kim and Garcia to take the brand, I’ll have to stop supporting them. What we saw today was not worthy of Oscar de la Renta. We’ll hope for better next season.