Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Oscar de la Renta // Spring 2018 //

At legacy brands there is nothing worse than it not looking like itself. Often is the case where the founder, or previous creative director, leaves due to a wide variety of circumstances. Oscar de la Renta, the Spanish-born American-based, fashion designer sadly passed in late 2014 and was subsequently replaced by Englishman Peter Copping. Copping’s tenure was brilliant but short-lived. His aesthetic melded well with the brand of high society chic required by the upper class women who shop from de la Renta, a proprietor of a reliable evening dress, cut and draped sumptuously. He was soon replaced by Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, two former hands of the atelier, who launched their own brand, Monse, to critical and commercial acclaim in 2015. Despite their experience previously at Oscar de la Renta’s studio, they failed to translate this awareness in their Spring 2018 show at New York Fashion Week in September.

Showing in Manhattan’s Sotheby’s branch, the venue was blanched—a fresh slate, this was the designer’s second outing but it could be seen as a starting point given the legal complications of Ms. Kim’s arrival at the house. It opened with a paint-splattered shirt dress. It bore Ms. Kim and Mr. Garcia’s personal stamp; shirting is a distinctive feature of their work, reworking it in unconventional ways at their brand. What ensued was a mixture of bright, block colours in primary hues, swimwear, denim and branded evening wear.

Incontrovertibly, the focus of brands like Oscar de la Renta is on adapting to the modern age—the main question is ‘how to appeal to millennials?’; too broad and challenging a group it is pin down. However, one is left scratching ones head, wondering if this is what this type of fashion house should become? High society galas, charity luncheons—the kind of women who are regularly found at Sotheby’s auctions, purchasing incomprehensibly priced artworks—are the events which the late Mr. de la Renta, his successor Mr. Copping dressed. The new blood? It is unclear who they are trying to dress. An crippling identity crisis aweigh.

Work that is redolent of instantly recognisable looks from recent fashion history, mere seasons or year after it is presented proves the research side of things featured little thought. Yes, the purpose of fashion is to remix and what comes before informs what comes next, but there was no evidence of progression or a yearning for the future here. The Japonisme of Prada’s Spring 2013 collection appeared in bathing suits appeared; there was bastardised Helmut Lang paint-splatter denim; Lena Dunham’s Emmy dress by Giambattista Valli was optioned; there were nods to Raf Simon’s Dior Couture, and Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel. Although one might think the specificity of those pieces are reserved for the observant eye of fashion critics, it is important to consider that even the reader of a women’s weekly magazine could pick up on them. 

Ms. Kim and Mr. Garcia are, as displayed by their effort at their own label, talented. They skilfully intertwine men’s tailoring into a feminine, modern wardrobe there. The balancing act of holding two houses proves difficult, seemingly, for they have yet to discern a clear and precise vision for a house they have a personal history with.

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