While definitely a luxury brand, Oscar de la Renta is structured a little differently than many of the big European houses run by conglomerates like Kering and LVMH, with fewer product categories and less pressure to report revenue growth to a group of investors every quarter. Oscar de la Renta's Creative Director Peter Copping has experienced both sides of this luxury coin — before his stint at Nina Ricci he spent 12 years alongside Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton — and as he told Financial Times Fashion Editor Jo Ellison on Tuesday during the publication's Business of Luxury Summit in San Francisco, both have their advantages.
Much of the recent conversation concerning creative directors has centered around the revolving door of designers and the pace of fashion's show and delivery schedules, which many see as unsustainable. The workload of designers employed by the aforementioned conglomerates may be more grueling due to the demands of the business side, as they're always under pressure to report growth. And while Copping is responsible for a not-insignificant six collections per year, he said he wouldn't mind if the pace were a little faster.
"Fashion is fast at the moment... you can look at other brands and compare [yourself] to what they're doing and you see people moving faster, making headway quickly, they might come from different structures which allow them to do that," he said. "In some ways, that's quite an envious position to be in." Oscar de la Renta, on the other hand, is still focused on evening gowns and fancy ready-to-wear, and hasn't been able to expand much beyond that yet — though CEO Alex Bolen has expressed interest in doing so. And it sounds like Copping has that itch, too.
That being said, Copping's time at Louis Vuitton —which began when the house launched ready-to-wear for the first time — sounded almost vacation-like as he and the rest of the small design team were responsible for only two collections per year. "It felt like a real luxury," he said, "It was enough time to do proper research, fabric development, travel. Some of our research trips were legendary." (Destinations included India, Brazil, Vienna and Scotland.) "[It was a] very pleasant environment, there was not competition between us. We'd refer to the research trips as 'holidays.'" Now that he's responsible for three times as many collections, Copping admits it's "difficult to find time to get ideas together that you can fully explore."
While Copping has brought his own ideas to Oscar, he's stayed very much within the lines of the brand's DNA. And as Ellison pointed out, the fact that the label doesn't have an accessories business to fall back on means it can't be quite as revolutionary on the runway as some other brands can. "[You have to make sure you're] not throwing the baby out with the bath water," said Copping, noting that he must keep existing customers happy while attracting new ones as well. "It's important to have a good sense of creative freedom; I think you need that to be able to forge forward. At the same time, I am a designer that is happy to work in conjunction with marketing and sales teams. I find that interesting and I think I can learn from those people."
Earlier in the discussion, while tracing his career path from Central Saint Martins to the Royal College of Art to Christian Lacroix and beyond, Copping said, "Every job I've had I've taken so much from, and today I'm still learning." While we've presumably only seen the beginnings of his mark on Oscar de la Renta, it's hard not to wonder what he'll do afterwards. Or maybe we've just gotten too used to the seemingly constant game of creative director musical chairs.