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Oscar de la Renta's Successor Stays True to His Singular Vision

Peter Copping's first collection looks to the future while respecting the past.

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In October 2014, an aging Oscar de la Renta designated British designer Peter Copping as his chosen successor. Suffering from lymphoma and increasingly conscious of his house's legacy, de la Renta initially planned to work alongside Copping in anticipation of his eventual departure, imparting his method and gradually preparing for the day when the younger man would take his place. Tragically, de la Renta passed away just one week after the appointment was announced. Last night marked the debut of Mr. Copping's first collection for the legendary label.

Copping's skills were never in doubt. A graduate of the famed Central Saint Martins—which counts Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, and Stella McCartney among its alumni—he worked alongside Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton for more than a decade. His feminine detailing like lace insets, diaphanous fabrics, and meticulous embellishment made him a natural fit at Nina Ricci, where he was named artistic director in 2009. (De la Renta reportedly began pursuing him shortly after his appointment there.) In this first collection, Copping faced a daunting task: to demonstrate his understanding of de la Renta's tradition and values while showcasing his own sensibilities and offering a new direction for the line.

Last night, the new Creative Director of one of the most distinguished fashion houses in America proved himself a worthy choice.

Last night, the new Creative Director of one of the most distinguished fashion houses in America proved himself a worthy choice. A study in contrasts, the collection melded dense geometric prints with airy florals; opaque, weighty fabrics with fragile lace; and high demure necklines alongside leg-baring cocktail dresses. Rich burgundy furs evoked a vision of imperial Russian opulence while a feather-accented skirt, beaded cap sleeves, and a stone-encrusted cropped jacket conjured Jazz Age charm and its boundless 1920s optimism. While prim skirtsuits—a staple of both Mr. De la Renta and Mr. Copping in his years at Nina Ricci—made appearances throughout the show, subtle alterations like flouncy A-line shapes and discreet pockets elevated De la Renta's classic uptown look for a younger customer.

De La Renta was known for cutting a dashing figure—including occasional forays into singing and dancing. Copping is considered more unassuming, but he paid homage to the house's dramatic namesake with eternal ODLR signatures like refined belted waists, bow adornments, tiered ruffles, and intricate rosettes. Nevertheless, he asserted his independence through original touches like a sliced skirt on a fringed, 70s-inspired black party dress and an off-the-shoulder gold brocade mini-dress with a sheer lace panel bordering the hemline. Embellished gowns in radiant shades of royal purple, aqua, and bordeaux red honored the legacy of Mr. de la Renta's red carpet tradition and Mr. Copping's years ensconced in Parisian glamour.

Copping may consider adding more than just his fresh young vision to the famously uptown label. While de la Renta is undeniably a womenswear brand, Alex Bolen, CEO of Oscar de la Renta and stepson-in-law of the man himself, said in FashionREDEF today, "I think that there are some obvious categories that we're not participating in, like menswear, that could very quickly become a more integral part of our business." He notes Copping has "a lot of ideas about menswear" and leaves the door open while remaining careful to emphasize authenticity above all. Although Copping dismissed the idea of pursuing menswear at Nina Ricci in a 2012 interview with W Magazine, the well-known dapper dress of De la Renta himself could serve as inspiration for a future exploration of the category.

If Copping's mulling over some changes, he's also being intensely thoughtful about the way he navigates the brand's past. In a touching tribute, he addressed De la Renta's emotional departure in the show notes by expressing his regret at never having the chance to work with the man who put such faith in him. Declaring his intention to "start a new chapter for the house," a deferential Copping conveyed both respect and hopefulness on his journey to lead one of America's most beloved fashion houses into the future.