This past weekend marked the final encore of the illustrious life and career of Oscar de la Renta with the close of Andre Leon Talley’s tribute exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. And yet, with our thoughts drawn to the iconic designer’s work once again, we can’t help but marvel afresh at its elegance, and his influence.
Andre’s exhibition set out to celebrate Oscar and his impact on both American style and American women. My sister, Alexandra Kotur, was one of those women directly affected by de la Renta, being lucky enough to know him and wear his designs. She loaned two of them to the exhibition. “Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself” de la Renta once said. And it was this very personal perspective as well as his personal relationship with the women he dressed that the exhibition sought to reflect. It all added a new dimension to things, showing the totally unique and modest grace de la Renta imbued in anyone who wore his creations.
The more than 130 looks shown as part of the exhibit were chosen from museum archives, the designer’s personal collection, and private lenders by André Leon Talley, from his own memories and recollections, and each represented a highly personal de la Renta moment for the curator, who travelled across the country (and through some wardrobes) gathering them together for this show and his book, Oscar De La Renta, His Legendary World of Style.
Born in the Dominican Republic in 1934, de la Renta moved to Madrid at 19 to study art before becoming an apprentice under Cristóbal Balenciaga and then a designer under Antonio Castillo at Lanvin. He had learnt the ropes of Haute Couture before launching his own eponymous label in 1965 – and it was this fusion of the beautifully and artistically made with an innate sense of appropriate elegance that marked his work out for the rest of his five decade long career.
“Andre and Oscar, both creative geniuses, understood each other. And Oscar, just like Andre, loved women and could create the highest level of chic for women that Andre completely related to” Alexandra recalled with affection.
That André and Oscar were incredibly good friends only serves to highlight the personal in this book. They met in the 1970’s, when André was a young accessories editor at WWD and Oscar and his first wife Françoise de Langlade were what Andre himself described in an interview with Vogue as, ‘the Social Lions of New York.’ They were firm friends from then onwards. More than that, we also see them as two men who have always celebrated the individual in fashion, men for whom women as diverse as Hillary Clinton, Diana Vreeland and Oprah qualify in terms of true icons – of style or anything else. In the book he has written, André looks at Oscar’s work through individual dresses made for individual clients – giving a glimpse at the fascinating stories behind each one’s creation. In doing so, he brings not only Oscar’s wonderful dresses but also the women who wore them to life.
Photo Courtesy of Huffington Post, drewaltizer.com, de Young, leighannemarie.com, borneobulletin.com.bn, wwd.com, vogue.com, wmagazine.com