Fits and Fresh Starts: Inside Oscar de la Renta

Alex John Beck

After three seasons at the helm of Oscar de la Renta, the house’s pair of designers continue to revere and reimagine the creations of the label’s late namesake.

A number of New York City–based fashion bastions have undergone sweeping changes of late—Calvin Klein, Diane von Furstenberg, Tiffany & Co. Nowhere is this more true than at the 42nd Street atelier of Oscar de la Renta. In the time since de la Renta’s passing, in October 2014, his brand—beloved by bold-faced uptown doyennes and Instagram-famous debutantes for its polished, prim, and very pretty dresses—has started to evolve in directions that its creative leads promise will deliver a new “sense of versatility.”

Those leads are Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia. Both got their start at de la Renta before launching their own ready-to-wear label, Monse, which they still maintain. They were brought back as co–creative directors after Peter Copping, de la Renta’s first successor, departed in July 2016. (They served for a short time in 2016 at Carolina Herrera.) Still, Kim says, “I honestly don’t feel like we left and came back.”

Alex John Beck

The name Oscar de la Renta is generally associated with an era that no longer exists. His designs (and his life) were magnificent, grand, and largely unseen. He and his gowns lived, for the most part, in a ’70s and ’80s gilded circle of America’s elite. His dresses were bought with old money; their style was old-school. Designer fashion has now opened up—in real life and on social media—and loosened up. It has become more democratic, and Kim and Garcia—both in their 30s yet grounded in the bedrock of what made and makes Oscar great—are seemingly the ideal candidates to modernize the house’s traditionalist sensibilities.

“I want our customer to be able to purchase everything she needs for her wardrobe at Oscar,” Kim says. “Cocktail dresses and gowns, yes, but also T-shirts, jeans, and sweatpants. My personal spin will be adding a bit of a relaxed and casual attitude to the brand.” Garcia adds: “We’re even introducing denim”—previously unthinkable, considering the traditional Oscar repertoire—“to make the brand feel more approachable for today’s woman.” This approach was evinced most charmingly in Kim and Garcia’s latest ready-to-wear collection, which featured Pop Art motifs and paint-splatter-print dresses.

Courtesy Oscar de la Renta

But ballrooms and banquettes have never been exactly how these two view de la Renta’s legacy. They were very young when they started and so have long seen the label through young eyes. “One image I always remember was seeing Kate Moss in a white feather Oscar de la Renta coat, standing next to Puff Daddy,” Kim says. “For me, Oscar was about this kind of dream.”