It was a little outlandish arriving at the Oscar de la Renta store on 42nd Street, where Oscar had shown his collections for the past few years. Strange knowing that when the show was over, someone other than the dashing man himself would stand at the end of the runway, acknowledging his guests.
Oscar knew this day was coming. When he hired Peter Copping, the plan was for the two to work side-by-side for a while, a transitional period, a gradual transfer of power. That didn’t happen. Yet as he worked on his debut collection for the house, Copping felt a connection, one he was careful not to exaggerate. “Unfortunately, I only met Oscar on a number of occasions,” Copping said during an interview. “But I think we immediately struck it up.”
Certainly they shared similar views on women, and a belief that fashion exists to further their beauty and self-image. “We both like sophisticated women, feminine and romantic, so we’re on par in that respect,” he said. Copping’s debut collection would play to that vision, yet he stressed it’s neither his desire nor, he thinks, was it Oscar’s wish, for him to imitate what he thinks de la Renta would have done. “I’m sure he’d want me to get on board and find a way to forward the house,” Copping said.
Still, that starts with embracing the core de la Renta customer while continuing to attract a younger one, something de la Renta did with significant success. Copping started the process with a collection that was as obviously middle as it was respectful. It’s hard to think of someone more suited to take up the de la Renta mantle than he, yet there are significant points of difference. For starters, Copping is of the narrow show-focus mind-set (it may be generational); at Nina Ricci, he typically started from a single point of inspiration and worked from there. Conversely, his Oscar debut was part homage, part anthology envoy of the house’s range. He offered the spectrum: pretty dresses, constructed suits, sleek coat-over-dress looks. A series of graphic tweeds were inspired by the configurations of the buildings and windows he sees out his studio window; the legacy of celebratory color pushed Copping toward the infrequent vibrant day look, including a full-skirted suit in fanciful red-violet. And there was eveningwear, some inspired vaguely by the Black and White Ball. These included frothy cocktail dresses, a pair of chic columns with bold floral prints and a surprising number of major gowns.
First and foremost, this collection will please the legions of Oscar loyalists who will learn quickly that the new man in charge understands what the house is all about, and understands them. Having sent that message and having gotten what may have been the biggest challenge of his career, Copping can now focus more clearly on shaping his Oscar de la Renta. “It’s fantastic to come [to New York] and feel a very positive energy,” he said. “People have been very welcoming. They’re behind me, behind the house. People want it to succeed.”
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