After mounting a 50-piece retrospective of Oscar de la Renta's work at its Savannah museum this spring, the Savannah College of Art and Design has christened a new fashion museum on its Atlanta campus, dubbed SCAD Fash, with an expanded exhibition of the late designer's creations. Though it showcases some of the same looks, like Sarah Jessica Parker's black and white Met Ball gown from 2014 and a blue Marie Antoinette-inspired dress worn by Kirsten Dunst on the September 2006 cover of Vogue, the new exhibit includes an extra 30 pieces. For a fashion nerd, it's a feast.
Among those additional garments are a handful by Peter Copping, who was appointed creative director of Oscar de la Renta shortly before the designer's passing and presented his first collection for the house last February. Rather than presenting the looks chronologically, the exhibitions team grouped them to highlight recurring aspects of de la Renta's work, like floral patterns and lace embellishments, says SCAD fashion exhibition consultant Rafael Gomes. Marked only by numbered plaques corresponding to notes in the exhibit catalogue, Copping's work blends seamlessly into his predecessor's.
"Oscar just has a very special place in our heart at SCAD," says President Paula Wallace of the decision to inaugurate the new museum with another de la Renta exhibit. The designer was the first to receive SCAD's André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, an honor that's since gone to industry players like Vivienne Westwood and Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa; Wallace says it felt appropriate to open the new museum with him, too.
The gallery itself, which used to be a SCAD events space, came about through some clever building swapping. When the college purchased Atlanta's 14th Street Playhouse in 2014 to use for screening films and hosting speakers and panel discussions, the possibility arose to repurpose the old events space into a gallery. Though SCAD Fash got a bit of a makeover — new lighting and floors, along with moveable walls to suit different exhibits' needs — Wallace says remodeling it "was not a terribly expensive endeavor" since the school already owned the space.
Relatively intimate in scale, SCAD Fash is in many ways an ideal setting to look at de la Renta's work up close, detailed as it is with embellishments and embroidery. The show runs through Dec. 31, after which it will be replaced with an exhibit on that other great fashion icon: André 3000.
Disclosure: SCAD paid for my travel and accommodations to attend and cover the event.
Correction: An older version of this article incorrectly stated Rafael Gomes's current title as director of fashion exhibitions. His title is fashion exhibition consultant.