Experience: Oscar De La Renta Retrospective

Oscar De La Renta (1932 - 2014) was a man and visionary artist adored by millions of women all over the world because he designed to bring out the very best in us: beauty, optimism, and confidence. One of my and my mother's favorite sayings of all time is one of his: "Walk like you have three men walking behind you." 

I am clearly not the only fan, evidenced by the throngs of women (and men) on Sunday seeing his retrospective exhibit at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. What shone through most from the hundred or so pieces shown in the exhibit is a steadfast commitment to celebrating the female form. How a woman moves and how a garment moves with her is equally as important as the final figure, standing still and swanlike. Perhaps Mr. De La Renta's Latin heritage enabled him to see and dress women as the most beautiful version of themselves. He was truly a master of this, and the fact that he routinely dressed women such as Jackie Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Nancy Kissinger, PenelopĂ© Cruz, Taylor Swift, and Sarah Jessica Parker speaks for itself. You can learn more about his life and career here. Beware, you may get lost clicking through photos of his dreamy designs.

The pieces in the retrospective exhibit were absolutely breathtaking - the perfect suit he designed under Pierre Balmain, a dress with a bodice embroidered with hundreds of gilded feathers, a dramatic black tiered lace flamenco dress, a gown with a thousand layers of light-as-air tulle. Oscar De La Renta was inspired by every beautiful thing in the world around him, and brought his imagination to life with exceptionally delicate handiwork to produce the most ethereal pieces, almost staggering in their vibrant color and material combinations. It was awe-inspiring to be in the presence of this man's work. If you have a chance to see the exhibit, you must. It's running through May 31st. I recommend buying tickets ahead of time for a designated viewing.

Some photos I took at the exhibit are below, including some of my mother when she wore a green and fuscia striped gown to her brother's wedding. 

Oscar De La Renta's death in October 2014 was deeply tragic to me. I felt the similarly about Michael Jackson, Dr. Maya Angelou, and David Bowie: the world is losing one of the greatest artists it has ever seen. But I felt more poignantly about this man's death: we have lost a man who throughout his whole career dedicated himself to designing garments that were utterly feminine and that celebrated women. Above that, Oscar De La Renta was one of the most highly regarded people in the fashion world. Designers, editors, and the women who dressed him only ever had the loveliest things to say about this warm, generous man. Perhaps that is what makes his dresses all the more special to wear - they were handmade with love. 

Mina AikenComment