A Glimpse at Oscar de la Renta: The Retrospective at the de Young Museum



A blue and white silk Oscar de la Renta gown worn by Kirsten Dunst.From Monet’s Giverny paintings to Donald Sultan’s floral series, the garden has inspired the work of artists of all stripes, and fashion legend Oscar de la Renta was certainly no exception. His passion for the colors and shapes of flowers echoed throughout his designs as he progressed from a young designer in Spain, through his years at iconic fashion houses Balenciaga, Lanvin and Balmain, to his collections and his own label. Now, a full-scale retrospective at the de Young Museum, featuring more than 130 pieces produced over half a century, includes a closer look at some of de la Renta’s garden-inspired designs.

André Leon Talley—the iconic contributing editor of Vogue and author of Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style (Rizzoli, 2015)—is guest curator of the exhibition. Talley notes in the show catalog (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and DelMonico Books, Prestel 2016), “Oscar carried with him the warmth of paradise, surely drawn from the sheer happiness of his childhood, growing up in a tropical environment in a huge family, surrounded by love.”

Oscar de la Renta in his Connecticut garden,The garden-influences segment of the exhibit is verdant with blooms. “André created the most beautiful tableau for the garden section with some of de la Renta’s most romantic looks; it transports you back to 18th-century France,” says Jill D’Alessandro, curator of textile arts at the Fine Arts Museums. “De la Renta’s love of luxurious fabrics permeates the entire exhibition, and the garden section delights with soft hues of striped taffetas and printed silk organza.”  

An exhibition highlight is the gown worn by Kirsten Dunst in the Vogue September 2006 issue. “It’s constructed with voluminous amounts of the most exquisite blue and white Chiné à la branche printed fabric in a floral pattern evocative of quinces and cherry blossoms,” notes D’Alessandro. “This historical printing technique dates back to 18th-century France and was Marie-Antoinette’s favorite. It illustrates de la Renta’s exceptional attention to fabrics.”

The exhibit, “Oscar de la Renta: The Retrospective,” runs from March 12 through May 30.

A version of this article appeared in the April/May 2016 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Fashion in Bloom.

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