This Week's Wow: The Fashion World Gathers for an Emotional Night to Celebrate Oscar de la Renta's Legacy
In this weekly feature, InStyle’s Fashion News Director Eric Wilson shares his favorite fashion moment of the week, and explains how it could shape styles to come. Look for it on What’s Right Now every Friday.
The Moment: The Fashion Group International’s annual Night of Stars benefit is one of the few industry galas where the designers in the room are still the real stars. There’s a celebrity here or there, Michelle Monaghan presenting an award to Joseph Altuzarra, or Debbie Harry to Glenda Bailey, but mostly, this is a room where people clamor to get a glimpse of Marc Jacobs or Diane von Furstenberg.
And the event on Thursday night was a particularly emotional one, following the death on Monday of Oscar de la Renta at the age of 82. The presenters and honorees took this as a moment to celebrate both his fashion and his legacy, which is, as von Furstenberg noted, to celebrate life, and also to celebrate fashion. Even in the face of adversity, fashion remains an important pursuit. It may not have the immediately obvious nobility of those who build housing for the poor or medical professionals who provide vaccinations, as the store and interiors designer Bill Sofield noted wryly, but then you wouldn’t necessarily want fashion people coming at small children with a hypodermic needle.
Simon Doonan (pictured, below), the creative ambassador at-large of Barneys, underlined the utter pointlessness of being self-conscious about fashion, or loving it, or embracing whoever you are, by relating a moment when the retailer enlisted a cast of celebrity lookalikes as guests to entice the press to an opening celebration for its Wooster Street store. When the faux Queen of England called in sick, Doonan, who had told everyone she was coming, had to dress up in tiara, butt pads and evening wear himself. Leaving his building in royal drag, he encountered his doorman, who regarded Doonan in a way he described as like high-noon. “Sunlight is glinting off my tiara, and it’s a bit like a spaghetti western standoff,” Doonan said. “We’re staring at each other, and I think, oh god, he’s going to put me in a headlock. Then I got level with him, and finally he spoke. He said, ‘Do you want your mail now, or when you come back?’”
Why It’s a Wow: Throughout the night, designers kept coming back to this moment. Elie Tahari cited Doonan’s “liberation speech” in his own acceptance, and Brunello Cucinelli was visibly moved by receiving his award. Von Furstenberg, the winner of this year’s “superstar” award (pictured, top), was moved to tears remembering de la Renta, with whom she shared a chicken dinner at her home on Saturday nights. “He loved life,” she said. “He really, really did. And he loved to sing, and he loved flowers and he loved beauty, and he loved to be mischievous and make fun of people, and he was the best gossiper. And the only way we can actually honor him is by all of us loving life and loving fashion.”
She then addressed Peter Copping (pictured, below), another honoree, and made a point of welcoming him to New York. Copping, until recently the designer of Nina Ricci, was handpicked by de la Renta to become his successor. In his acceptance, Copping addressed that excitement he feels at the opportunity to come to de la Renta’s studio as creative director, and also his sadness over the loss of the designer. “It is a bittersweet moment,” he said. “I know I’m going to receive a lot of support, and I’m sure Oscar will be my guardian angel.”