For Peter Copping’s purposes at Oscar de la Renta, 1973’s fashion Battle of Versailles — French vs. Americans — had it all in terms of relevant source material to apply to his fall collection. De la Renta was one of the young American designers who participated in the original event, famously upstaging the highfalutin French couture establishment with their fresh, fluid ready-to-wear. “Oscar was much more minimal at that time than what he became,” Copping said before the show. “I love the idea of that modern invasion in France and it taking place at Versailles.”
The parallel between that bullet point in de la Renta’s history and Copping’s task at hand was obvious: an outsider refreshing something beloved, revered and not broken, but perhaps a bit old guard. Interestingly, Copping honed in on Oscar’s favorite silhouettes — bell-shaped fit-and-flares with boned waists, neat lady jackets and skirts and strapless bodice cocktail dresses and gowns — which brought the collection obviously closer to de la Renta’s signature vision than it has been. Clearly the loyal customer still wants what she knows. And yet Copping successfully simplified and modernized the look in a way that felt like a natural, painless progress.
Central to the result was the simple act of pairing skirts and dresses with clean, seamless stretch knits, some in ribbed viscose, some in toile de Jouy lace. These tempered the grander shapes, fabrics and color scheme, which were largely inspired by 18th–century interiors. Copping worked in rich combinations of oyster gray, Bordeaux and French blue. Fancy fabrics, such as damask silk jacquard, silk faille and toile, were updated in lighter constructions and metallic treatments. A navy ribbed knit top with a French blue mink collar atop a wine techno canvas pleated bell skirt was a great example of dynamic color and fabric play presented in a classically polished ensemble. Corsets, too, came in stretch viscose knit, achieving a traditional, bosomy cinched effect minus the 18th-century pain.
As the collection progressed to the eveningwear portion, Copping introduced more elaborate metallic modernism. While conceptualizing the lineup, another famous study in contrasts staged at Versailles came to mind: the 2008 Jeff Koons exhibition that filled the gilded halls with giant balloon animals. “I was thinking about a Koons bunny rabbit in a baroque interior,” Copping said of a strapless cocktail dress with a shimmery light green organza skirt and mirrored sequin bodice. It was striking, but less shocking than a Koons rabbit.