Pret-a-Reporter

NYFW: Peter Copping Makes His Oscar de la Renta Debut

The English designer -- who attracted Taylor Swift, Karlie Kloss and Barbara Walters to his ODLR debut -- told us what it feels like to fill some very big shoes.

Few moments are more daunting for a designer than the first season after assuming the mantle of a major fashion label—but what if that label is Oscar de la Renta? The shoes (and the expectations in filling them) aren’t merely big, they’re monumental. You wouldn’t know it, though, from Peter Copping’s cool demeanor following his debut collection for the house Tuesday evening.

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“I’m not somebody who stresses out too much; maybe I internalize it,” he told Pret-a-Reporter, adding that the occasion nonetheless filled him with “thousands of mixed emotions.” What helped, Copping noted, was the feedback he received prior to the show, roundly agreed to be the most anticipated of New York Fashion Week. “As I started to see the collection coming together, and as key people were coming in to see it, I kept hearing, ‘It looks very Oscar and it looks very you.’ That’s the best compliment I could get. Once I heard that a couple of times, I started to feel good.”

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The Oxford-born, 48-year-old Copping -- approved by de la Renta as his successor just a week before the legendary designer passed away last October -- indeed seemed to effortlessly blend the two sensibilities. You could see Copping, formerly the creative director at Nina Ricci, both in the pared-down feeling of several of the day suits and dresses, or in the shorter, mid-thigh lengths of the cocktail dresses, which he acknowledged were intended for those younger women who are fans of the house. Taylor Swift is one such example: She sat on the front row Tuesday evening with BFF Karlie Kloss, who this season abstained from her longtime status of opening and closing this show (their side-by-side positioning also had a little something to do with their shared appearance on Vogue’s March cover).

No less youthful were some of the floral-embellished dresses, including a strapless trumpet gown in ocean blue silk faille, adorned with a flurry of black silk blossoms. Of course, any floral references could only make audience members smile and think of de la Renta, who often looked to his beloved garden for inspiration. “It made sense to veer toward florals and roses, and I wanted there to be an abundance of them,” Copping said. “But at the same time there needed to be an artisanal quality. Looking at Oscar’s work, it is very artisanal; it had that handwork to it. I wanted to experiment with that.” The result: pieces that would suit the range of de la Renta’s fanbase, from a Swift-friendly cocktail minidress in ultraviolet techno wool, its taffeta and organza embroidery resembling a lush bouquet of ranunculuses, to the more covered-up elegance of a white silk-georgette column gown splashed with roses crafted of black lace, a look likely favored by longtime clients Barbara Walters and Nancy Kissinger, both of whom also turned up to lend their support for Copping’s first outing.

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“That was definitely bittersweet,” said Alex Bolen of Copping’s floral homage; as the label’s CEO and de la Renta’s son-in-law (he’s married to the designer’s stepdaughter, Eliza), Bolen can easily conjure thoughts of those elements de la Renta most enjoyed. “This is the time Oscar really loved, the lead-up to the show. On the one hand, it’s super exciting because it’s a new chapter for us, and Peter is such a wonderful guy. On the other hand, I keep looking around corners and expecting Oscar to be there.”

Bolen’s verdict on Copping’s debut? “Peter focused very much on all of the things that were important to Oscar, and kept it very sophisticated, but Peter also took it forward, and Oscar was always about moving forward,” he said. “If Peter had merely copied Oscar, Oscar wouldn’t have thought much of that. Peter did his version of Oscar de la Renta, and we’re thrilled with what he’s done.”

And while he and de la Renta never had a chance to collaborate, Copping ultimately feels he’s embarked on path that feels right. “I think Oscar and I would have shared a lot of common territories,” Copping said. “We definitely had the same appreciation for women and for beauty of the world in general. It’s a big job, but you have to challenge yourself. I’m excited by the possibilities.”

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