Last spring, Oscar de la Renta’s Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia explored various Mediterranean cultures as inspiration for their collection. They found the material too rich to leave, and continued for fall, focusing on Morocco and Spain. What interested them most was the mix of cultures in southern Spain, so for their set, they commissioned a series of colonnade arches inspired by the Grand Mosque of Córdoba in Andalusia. (Apart from setting the mood, the set sent another message as well: the Oscar camp is willing to spend a few bucks on show production.)
The designers developed the theme into an impressive, focused collection. Unlike for spring, when they took a few too many side trips, here they worked a few key motifs — a palette of rich, earthy hues; decorative effects such as embroideries and fringing; carpet-inspired fabrics — in a deft application of the Mediterranean melting-pot theme.
Turns out, a different sort of cultural coalescence mattered almost as much as the one that inspired them — one crossing generations and lifestyles. One sensed Kim and Garcia allowing themselves to be more themselves than they have in the past, relaxing the house aesthetic while remaining respectful to the founder’s vision and purpose. Oscar often said his only goal was to make women look beautiful. He did so with a polished approach that came through in his love of color, often drawing on his Latin heritage. His ladies loved it. But times are different now, women are different, and they dress differently. While Kim and Garcia have addressed those realities with confidence at Monse, at ODLR, they’ve sometimes seemed conflicted, and some collections have felt too reverent. Here, they displayed full confidence in themselves and their mandate.
They started with tailoring, not of the skirt-suit, lady-fied sort, but a pair of glen plaids over black pants. These featured a cheeky riff on the twin set — the jacket and coat were both worn over matching bra tops. This introduced a fresh foray into men’s wear fabrics, often used in combination — gorgeous unconstructed cashmere coat, half plaid, half curry-faced herringbone; herringbone dress with a huge arc of tweed check set into the skirt. And wisely, they made judicious use of the carpet theme, keeping literal reference to a few, including a pretty long-sleeve dress and a puffy patchwork poncho. Such looks had an ease that felt very current.
At night, the designers showed similar control. While a ballgown will, and should, always have a place on an Oscar de la Renta runway, Garcia and Kim showed only one traditional version, a black velvet-and-tulle gem of moderate girth. They offered plenty of evening alternatives, some richly embellished, some not. They got down to the chicest of basics in black and white: the former, a stretch wool gown with dramatic fringing, the latter, an impossibly chic velvet column, both stunners.