Oscar de la Renta is one of America’s most loved brands. Founded in 1965 by Oscar de la Renta, the brand has outlined a generation of elegance in US history.
De la Renta was trained by the best. Working under Cristóbal Balenciaga and Antonio del Castillo, then at Lanvin and Balmain before launching his own label. His feminine designs quickly became the favourites of celebrities, first ladies and royalty. His dresses have been worn by the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Oprah, Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle, Sarah Jessica Parker, Taylor Swift and the list of iconic red carpet moments goes on.
In 2014 Oscar de la Renta sadly passed away at the age of 82 in a moment that truly shook the fashion world. With the founder at the helm of the brand for almost 50 years, it would become a new chapter for the American fashion house, but it was crucial that De la Renta’s legacy was not forgotten. So a few years after his death, the brand turned to now Creative Directors Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim. The two designers had started their careers at Oscar de la Renta where they were trained by the designer himself – so it only seemed fitting that they came back to their roots to continue the legacy of the brand.
At the time, the two designers had left ODLR to start their own line Monse which continues to be a success to today. In the four years since their take over Garcia and Kim have had a strong focus on international expansion; especially in China which has become a huge market for the brand. Their young, energetic attitude has given the House a new lease of life, appealing to a young clientele but not forgetting its roots. As they prepare to launch the fall/winter 2020 collection, we talk to Garcia and Kim and what makes this brand so special to them and the plans for the future of the House.
How would you define the universe of Oscar de la Renta today and how has it evolved?
We are always evolving with time. It is important that as a brand we adapt and change to accommodate the ever-changing needs of women today and their lifestyles.
How would you put into words the message you are trying to spread with ODLR today?
We try our best to source the best material in the market that has been produced ethically and responsibly. Our goal is to create a feminine wardrobe for sophisticated women.
You both began your careers at ODLR so how you would you put into words the close relationship you have with this brand and what it means to you?
Your first job out of college really forms your work ethic and it was the first job for both of us. Oscar de la Renta had a great influence on both of us creatively, but beyond design, he also had a strong influence on us and our relationships with friends and colleagues. He taught us the importance of having fun at work and in life.
What can you tell us about Oscar de la Renta in the Middle East?
Quite a lot of our inspiration comes from Middle Eastern culture. Women in the Middle East make a great effort to dress up and look beautiful. They also have very feminine taste, which our products cater to.
We have seen beautiful kaftans from you over the past years which are hugely popular in the Middle East – how important is it to ODLR to localise its collections or give tribute to a specific market?
We personally love designing kaftans. They can be very dramatic and have a “wow” effect. We are conscientious about incorporating designs that fit the needs of each market. We travel so much which has helped us value the importance of creating products for women all around the world.
The COVID-19 situation has had a dramatic effect on the globe – what is a lesson you have learnt from this situation and how will it help you in moving forward?
It’s been a good period to reset and refocus. It has inspired us to leave behind what wasn’t working and refresh.
How have you been spending your time in lockdown – were you able to continue designing?
LK: It’s important to find ways to stay busy. I love creating so I’ve been spending a lot of my time cooking. We’ve continued to work through quarantine by sketching, sewing, and draping from home.
FG: I’ve been running in the sun and working on getting back into my stride. Flowers have also filled my apartment recently. They have been bringing me joy and keeping me busy!
Are there any changes in buyer behaviour you think we will see after the global pandemic?
I have a feeling that trends will be more focused on comfort. There will likely be less of a need for opulent dressing since there will be fewer events and gatherings.
How do you think the values and culture of the United States are reflected through the brand?
FG: We have always reflected our experiences through our collections, specifically the fluidity of cultures that are intrinsic in this country. Laura and I come from different parts of the world and we believe it is important to highlight this because only in America do you see such multicultural friendly environments. Only in America is this celebrated as positive, so we must continue to blend and mix to create the new.
What are your thoughts on the future of traditional fashion weeks and runway shows?
FG: They will resume eventually as the shows are created to allow people from all over the world to have an efficient trip to buy different brands in one go. Perhaps there will not be as many collections anymore though. However, until we are in a more safe environment everyone should do what is best for their own brand, create digital changing rooms with your sales representatives, present your collections with photography and video… it pushes the eye to create something that will resonate with a new client I am sure.
Take us through the fall/winter 20 offerings – the inspiration, the fabrics, the colours?
FG: Laura and I are known for not taking ourselves too seriously. When we began exploring the inspiration we had, the black and white ball, New York Public Library, Chiaroscuro movement, we thought how funny it would be to splash Mickey as the Sorcerer’s apprentice across all of it… The brilliant colours and whimsical embroideries helped arch it back into who we are as people, without disrupting the DNA of the brand.
Where does e-commerce fit into the brand strategy at Oscar de la Renta and has the global crisis changed your approach to online at all?
FG: We have always had a strong online business, but it has become a stronger focus during the COVID-19 crisis. So as a company we have been creating new ways to draw our customer’s attention to our website.
What can you tell us about sustainability at ODLR?
A large selection of our manufacturers are qualified as sustainable. Most of our raw materials are traceable to the source. Our knit factory is operated with solar power, and our fabric mills recycle the water that has been used during production. We do our best to ensure our processes are kind to the environment.
How important is the store experience today and what do your stores offer that’s unique?
FG: We have store managers who can give the customer a virtual experience. From getting your wedding gown to shopping the new collection… simply go to our website to learn how to contact a store near you.
You have worked together for many years – How do you divide the processes needed to create a new collection between you?
FG: We toss ideas in the air! We both like it to push forward. We sketch separately, and we make sure that we’re both focusing on ideas for the larger picture. Eventually, we have a board of all of our ideas and we filter down by picking the favourites and build that group further expanding it to the maximum. That’s how we give the team some direction.
LK: When it comes to design, we do not have a particular division of responsibilities. In other facets of the company, we do divide and conquer.
Tell us one thing about each other that the readers may not know.
LK: Fernando can’t live without his friends. He would do anything for them. FG: Laura is one of my favourite cooks.
How do you want women to feel in your clothes?
Beautiful and confident.
What is the professional motto you live by?
LK: Keep moving forward.
FG: Take advantage of breathing room to realign priorities.