Fashion / Style

Oscar de la Renta Takes Over New York Public Library, Brings Back the Glamour

Late Night Scene Produces Plenty of Showstoppers

BY // 02.14.20

NEW YORK — Since taking over as creative directors of Oscar de la Renta, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia have based their collections on far-away locales, highlighting fringe-trimmed tunics, raffia dresses, peasant blouses and flowing kaftans with a wanderlust theme.

While the collections were beautiful, they were missing the full-on glamour that the legendary designer perfected until his death in 2014.

For fall ’20, Kim and Garcia have returned to the luxe label’s roots with a party-themed collection that revels in the idea of simply having fun and looking great while doing it. In the process, they have produced their best work since they assumed the top job at de la Renta in 2016 and recaptured some of that Oscar magic.

The duo staged their fall ’20 runway show in the ornate New York Public Library, a Beaux Arts architectural masterpiece, at a late hour, unlike their predecessor, who always unveiled his collections in the afternoon to leave his evenings open for socializing. De la Renta, who founded his namesake label in 1965, was a fixture on the New York A-list society scene, and attended the famous Black and White Ball hosted by Truman Capote in 1966, which inspired the current collection of luxurious evening wear.

A black velvet gown with a cascading skirt of white feathers is a showstopper, while Scarlett Johansson’s custom pewter Oscar gown with a strapless bodice and exposed corset and draped beading is reimagined in an all-black version.  The duo also created a short version of Johansson’s Oscar gown in a pewter mini-dress with cascading beading.

Other standouts included a sparkly sequined pants suit, column gowns with feathers and other ornate finery at the neckline, a “fireworks gown” with an explosion of colorful sequined beading cascading across the front, and a red velvet dress with feather cape worn by model Bella Hadid to close the show. Less successful were several poofy gowns with a high-low hemline that recalled the ’80s in a less-than-memorable way.

While adhering to de la Renta’s penchant for designing full-on glamour gowns, Kim and Garcia put their own stamp on the collection, thanks to an unlikely source.

“(The Black and White Ball) was really inspiring, but we didn’t feel connected to it, because we didn’t live in that era,” Garcia told The Hollywood Reporter. “So Laura and I started thinking about us and what felt like us, and what came to mind was Disney and Fantasia and the idea of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. If you think of Mickey chopping up everything and making a ruckus, that was Laura and I in the atelier.”

The collection contains only one traditional princess silhouette — a champagne crystal-embroidered gown with a full skirt. Most everything else contains a surprise or two, like a wine velvet gown with exposed corseting, a silk cocktail dress molded onto part of a jeweled bra, and a lamé dress with layers of fan-shaped pleats at the neckline.

Daytime looks range from harlequin coats and geometric-patterned dresses to separates in bright Crayola colors. But it’s really the evening wear that shines, although some critics have carped that, with all that is going on in the world, such a party collection is out of touch with the times we are living in.

“Polka like it’s 1989,” sniped The New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman, referring to the ’80s fashion references. “But does anyone really want to wear their own obliviousness on their gorgeously embroidered sleeve?”

Out here, in the hinterlands where party-going is still considered a welcomed antidote to all the craziness in the world, I suspect the attention to heightened glamour will do just fine. Among Houston’s society set, wearing a de la Renta gown is still considered special and the collection offers a wealth of options.

Houston fans can get an up-close look at the Houston Chronicle Best Dressed Luncheon and Neiman Marcus Presentation at the Post Oak Hotel on March 25. Kim and Garcia will attend the luncheon and present the collection in a runway show, benefitting the March of Dimes. More than $1 million has already been raised, according to event chairs Brigitte Kalai and Alicia Smith.

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