Oscar de la Renta may have canceled the runway shows he once put on for inter-season collections and pared back the invitation lists of those he still stages, but it's hard to say he's pared back. An Oscar collection caroms from black and white to flamingo pink and citrine green, from smart-suit daywear to full-on ball gowns in lamé. For Pre-Fall, the inspiration points were just as varied: some shapes borrowed from Japanese fashion; vivid colors from Zurbarán, the great Spanish Golden Age painter. A parrot was embroidered onto a mikado pencil skirt. "I travel a lot," de la Renta chuckled, then added drily, "in a chair." Even so, he added, "You feel so sorry for the clothes that are not being shown." He gestured around the showroom at the racks. Put each on a model and, like a couture show of yore, you could be here all day.
It's hard to blame de la Renta for his profligacy. Pre-collections have a long life on the floor, covering multiple seasons and, in a global marketplace, multiple climates. When you want to speak to all and sundry, as Oscar does—100 percent of the 1 percent, as it were—you have to have a lot to say. The new presentation style, of small-group vignettes, helped clarify the strongest messages. Bright, bold tailoring—a royal purple skirtsuit with a double-faced cashmere/angora bomber jacket, or an elongated gilet over matching forest green trousers—was snappy. But if you're not a woman for color, there were plenty of graphic options in classic black and white, in guipure lace and mélange tweed. For the rara avis: more-is-more multicolored gowns in silk taffeta and silk faille, the most photographed of which tied at the back, like a Christmas present, with an enormous bow. And for the femme fatale: an embroidered lamé gown, wrapped as tight around the bust as a bath towel. In the otherwise silent presentation, it made an appealing jingle as it went. If you were cynical, you might call that the sound of money in the bank. But de la Renta, though many things, isn't a cynic. "At the end, it's about making beautiful clothes for women to fall in love with," he said. So put it another way: music to his ladies' ears.