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At Oscar de la Renta, the first look was a clean-cut oyster-coloured cashmere skirt suit, worn with a bordeaux roll-neck and viscose rib gloves. The following looks had the same puritanical rigour, roll-necks and jackets topped with mink collars tied up with cord, a grey wool dress was worn with black stretch ribby gloves.
After last season’s ultra-romantic ruffle fiesta, Peter Copping’s third season as creative director was focused on the essential Oscar tropes — the bell-shaped skirt, the ballgown, the day suit — and playing with the fabrications to stop them looking, as he described it, “too madame”. He had been inspired by the Battle of Versailles, the fashion show fundraiser of 1973, in which American designers (including Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and Anne Klein, who brought her assistant, a very young Donna Karan) battled their French contemporaries (Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent among them) in a fashion showdown. Famously, the Americans took home the spoils and the competition has subsequently been remembered as the moment American design was finally recognised as having a language and look of its own. “It was very minimal,” says Copping, “and this more pared down look was a shock to the Parisian system.”
One doesn’t always think of Oscar de la Renta as a minimalist designer, but many of his clothes were an exercise in extravagant containment. Hence, for AW16, Copping had taken the themes of 18th-century Versailles (an era Copping finds personally exciting as a sourcebook) and applied the principles of the 20th-century competition to find his look.
“I wanted the old richness, contrasted with the simple,” he explained of his melding of the maximal excess of Marie Antoinette and the minimal undress of Italian model Mariacarla Boscono, as shot by Juergen Teller in 2008. A leather skirt was bonded with neoprene to give it more malleability and a sculptural feel, 18th-century toile de Jouy and floral prints had been digitised and refracted to be made more modern, while duchesse satin gowns were played down with black bodices in cotton toile that revealed the back. A richly embroidered jacket was worn with black ribby sleeves. And Copping had created a “crescent glove” that just brushed the knuckles and was worn like a sock, a strange subversive detail in an otherwise very ladylike ensemble.
Copping’s understanding of the Oscar woman has been seemingly without a hiccup. And this collection was another stunning exercise in sublime simplicity that sometimes took your breath away.
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