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Can Oscar Survive Without Oscar?

Well, even though the recently deceased Oscar was truly a master of ultra-feminine design - a fashion gorgon whose dedication to preserving the feminine mystique was unparalleled except by someone like the long-dead Christian Dior himself. Oscar was an institution, and like all institutions, it became time to reflect and refurbish. Oscar knew this and had already hired Peter Copping (formerly of Nina Ricci) as his successor. But Oscar's plans to train Peter fizzled when Oscar died suddenly and unexpectedly. So Peter threw together his debut collection for Oscar in only three months. That piece of information has been relentlessly repeated, almost as if to excuse Peter for what was, frankly, not a very stellar debut. But there were indeed visible changes. Gone were Oscar's voluminous "forever young" ballgowns only worn by ladies of a certain age, replaced by the far-more-chic column dresses.

Peter's presentation opened with an unabashed tribute to Oscar. The sweet, ladylike ensembles of coats and dresses looked like vintage Oscar, and not in a good way. The mixing of prints and patterns was a dismal failure, and some of Peter's work resembled the work of Oscar's now-deceased contemporary, Bill Blass, from the 1980s. And

along with the spirit of the 80s, it also appeared that some of the ensembles seemed to be a tribute to Joan Collins in Dynasty.

The short-skirted suits were definitely fresher, and less Oscar-like than what we'd seen previously. A heavy dose of cocktail dresses also showed Peter's personal imprint, and were quite lovely. We then slid into more flesh-baring dresses - pretty much of a no-no during Oscar's reign - that indicated much more of Peter's own imprint. Peter had previously designed for the also ultra-feminine house of Nina Ricci, and while many of Peter's dresses did not resemble Oscar's dresses, they did resemble Nina Ricci dresses.

The finalé was an odd mixture of direct tributes to Oscar's evening gowns, along with Peter's own work that had heavy allusions to Oscar's work, interspersed with Peter's own independent Nina Ricci-ish short evening dresses.

Dear Peter, I know you pulled this collection off against great odds and under intense pressure, so I'll happily give you a get-out-of-jail-free card because of that, but only if you and I make an agreement that you're going to shed the Nina Ricci influence immediately, and drag the Oscar de la Renta name kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Call me.

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Photography by: Oscar de la Renta