Oscar de la Renta has gone from European chic to American up-and-comers — and the switch will be visible in its fall 2017 collection.
Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, who were named co-creative directors of Oscar de la Renta on Friday, are expected to inject an even more youthful air to the fashion house’s collections. They replace Peter Copping, who left the company in July after nearly two years on the job. He succeeded de la Renta after his death in 2014.
WWD reported last week that Garcia and Kim were the lead candidates for the job.
De la Renta is familiar turf for Kim and Garcia. She spent 12 years working under the late designer, most recently as his design director, while Garcia spent six years in the atelier first as an intern and eventually handling celebrity and VIP dressing. They left the company in 2015 to launch their label Monse for spring 2016, which instantly gained retail and editorial traction for its youthfully dressed-up, deconstructed shirting. The collections thus far have been based on an item — shirts, or for resort, it was trenches — which is then reinterpreted in myriad ways.
Elizabeth von der Goltz of Bergdorf Goodman and Sarah Rutson of Net-a-porter were early advisers on the line. Monse was also nominated for the CFDA’s 2016 Swarovski Award for Womenswear. Additionally, last year, Carolina Herrera hired Garcia and Kim to consult on her pre-fall 2016 and resort 2017 collections (a move that reportedly irked executives at de la Renta), which were critically well-received and notable for their fresh take on Herrera’s uptown polish. As WWD reported exclusively, Herrera last week named Raffaele Ilardo vice president of design.
Meanwhile, Copping was failing to flourish at de la Renta. After a successful run as creative director at Nina Ricci, the British designer was recruited to de la Renta just before the designer’s death in October 2014.
But Copping’s collections for the house never quite resonated, neither living up to what he did for Nina Ricci nor what de la Renta was known for. Rather, Copping’s efforts gave the impression of someone hemmed in by in-house demands (with chief executive officer Alex Bolen said to continually insert himself into the design process) and the pressure to cater to the loyal de la Renta customer. Unlike many luxury houses, which are fueled by fragrance and accessories, de la Renta is primarily an apparel-driven business. At the time of his departure, industry sources said Copping’s designs failed to perform at retail.
Kim began working at de la Renta in 2003. Born in Seoul, she was raised in Calgary, Canada, and studied design at Pratt Institute. Garcia, like de la Renta, is from the Dominican Republic. He studied architecture at the University of Notre Dame.
Asked when the conversation with Alex Bolen, chief executive officer of de la Renta, began, Garcia said,”We always stayed in touch. Alex came to our shows and it was an ongoing dialogue that started the second we left Oscar.”
Garcia said that the the aesthetic direction he and Kim want to take the collection in hasn’t been completely worked out. “We will continue to carry on the amazing DNA of the house and push it to the newest level each season, as Oscar always wanted,” said Garcia. “What that looks like is going to be determined very soon.”
Garcia and Kim’s first collection for Oscar de la Renta will be for fall 2017. They will oversee ready-to-wear, accessories, bridal and children’s collections, while continuing to operate Monse. In a statement from de la Renta, the company said it will enter into a strategic partnership with Monse, providing it with operational support. It did not provide financial details of the “partnership” but Garcia said that no stake of the business has been sold to or acquired by Oscar de la Renta. Rather, it will share its back-of-house resources with Monse so Garcia and Kim can focus on design for both labels. “We all agree that a company this young shouldn’t be split up equity-wise at such an early stage,” said Garcia. “It’s a strategic partnership for that reason. Everyone can help it grow, and at a certain point if it becomes a smart business venture, then maybe in the future.”
The spring 2017 collection, designed by a team, will be shown 4 p.m. on Sept. 12.