Oscar de la Renta S/S 2016
Oscar de la Renta S/S 2016

You may not be good enough to wear anything from this collection.

I don’t mean to be dismissive or elitist or rude, but the fact remains that only a certain kind of woman gets away with putting on one of these dresses or gowns and giving the garment the presence and elevation it deserves. I’ll explain more in a bit.

First, let’s consider that it still hasn’t been a year since the founder of this royal clothing line passed. It was shortly after this show last September that Peter Copping was introduced as the brand’s new creative director. Then suddenly, much sooner than anyone expected, Oscar was gone. Copping had planned on easing into the position and suddenly found himself hurrying to put together the fall/winter collection in time for February’s presentation. Now, he’s had time to get a handle on the situation, make some changes, and establish himself as the person in charge of this fabled label.

To start, Copping changed the location of the show to Prince George’s Ballroom, a very upscale facility in the heart of Manhattan on East 28th Street. He brought back chairs for his guests, rather than the ubiquitous benches that everyone has been using for several years in an effort to cram as many people into limited space as possible. Then, in homage to the founder of the great house, there was a single red carnation on every seat. Copping made it very clear that the label is not going to take a single step back on the level of classiness, romanticism, and refinement that Oscar de la Renta infused into his clothes.

Then came the clothes. With a hint of Spanish influence, Copping has re-worked and updated several of de la Renta’s silhouettes from the early 1960s. The looks were very fitted, with plenty of silk and satin and linen and lace and certainly more organza than I’ve seen anyone else using this season. Floral prints, one of Oscar’s trademarks, were in abundance with large rose petals, red on red, leading the way. The spirit and aesthetic of the house hasn’t changed at all.

Yet, this was unquestionably Copping’s collection, not Oscar’s. There was more lace, more bare shoulder, and more daring use of sheer.  There was less tulle, less appliquè, and less embroidery, though none of those touches were completely abandoned, either. Copping’s use of little black bows was the perfect detail and the hints of Spanish influence were more as accents and never felt overwhelming.

As a result, however, Copping has created a collection so refined that not just anyone can pull it off. Models had been coached to keep their posture perfectly straight, their heads held high, and their chins pointed forward to present an air of sophistication. One  simply does not “toss on” one of these dresses, and one especially does not slouch, wear cheap shoes, or behave with the slightest bit of impropriety; the dress simply won’t allow it. These are not dresses created for bohemian lifestyles, but for women who genuinely appreciate the quality with which each dress is crafted. These are not dresses for the office or any cocktail party where a clumsy guest might tip cheese dip upon the skirt. If one cannot pull off the elegance and sophistication for which these dresses are intended, one needs to shop somewhere else. These clothes are very demanding.

Diversity has never been a strong point of an Oscar de la Renta runway, though, and in that regard, sadly, nothing has changed, with less than 20% of the models being non-caucasian. We can only give the presentation a three out of ten on our scale. Let’s hope this is something Copping works to dramatically improve.

There aren’t many American brands left that really commit to elegance and refinement as does Oscar de la Renta. While the future of American fashion may lie predominantly in the ne0-urban movement, it’s nice to see that Copping is holding firm to the higher standard into which this brand was born.

Photo credit: Yannis Vlamos
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