For perspective on the legacy he inherited as creative director of Oscar de la Renta, Peter Copping visited the SCAD MOA exhibition, Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style. Recently, Copping returned to Savannah College of Art and Design, this time to SCADshow in Atlanta, for a discussion about careers in fashion and to share his insights on the future of the Oscar de la Renta brand.
In his discussion with Carmela Spinelli, fashion historian and international admission liaison for SCAD, Copping touched on subjects ranging from collection planning to designing couture for the everyday woman — offering students anecdotes from his career and his views on what it really takes to make it in the fashion industry.
Though not on his list, a powerful lesson is how gracefully Copping stepped in to his role as Oscar de la Renta’s first creative director. Originally, the idea was for Copping to work alongside de la Renta for a season or two, but the untimely death of the brand’s namesake accelerated Coppings learning curve.
This isn’t Copping’s first time leading a major fashion house; his resume boasts names like Christian Lacroix, Sonia Rykiel, Louis Vuitton and Nina Ricci. In the 1980s, with the love and support of his family, he moved to London to begin his career. Copping didn’t hesitate about his passion, which propelled him into a whirlwind career that has taken him from London to Paris and New York.
It’s an interesting time for fashion. The great thing is that it’s constantly needing new blood to come in and push things forward. - Peter Copping
Copping first met de la Renta in the design icon’s Park Avenue apartment, a meeting Copping described as “very natural.” Though they didn’t discuss fashion, the two connected on many other topics. But since Copping took over in October 2014, to really get a sense of the man de la Renta was and how his visions came to fruition, Copping has relied on the people who knew the mastermind best and worked with him the longest. Ultimately, Copping shared, it was de la Renta’s clothes that spoke to him and told him what he needed to know most.
Copping pointed out that while glamour can be found in fashion studios, he has tremendous respect for the designers in the atelier, whom he described as geniuses. He values garment structure, cutting, sewing and draping — preferences that align with de la Renta’s sensibilities. “I worked for twenty years in Europe, most of my career was spent in Paris, and I think that’s something I can bring to the house as well,” said Copping. “Oscar is one of the most Parisian designers you have in New York, he had a great appreciation for French couture — he worked in the south [of France] for a number of years. That was very important for him.”
SCAD President Paula Wallace interviews Copping.
Copping also touched on the pressure to create well-reviewed collections in rapid succession, for which he says he thinks forward to the next collection before the current one is even shown. And while he likes a zen atelier, he thrives under pressure. He attributes this to being a grounded person and cautioned students to not get sucked in to the pressure of pleasing critics: “Know that it is not the be all and end all of everything,” Copping warned.
In the question and answer portion of the discussion, Copping advised students who are curious to explore their entrepreneurial spirit to also honor the art of fashion by gaining as much experience as possible. “I learned a great deal at college, but once I actually arrived in Paris and could observe and work with a French atelier I even learned more,” he shared.
His final words of encouragement: “Fashion is a wonderful world to work in — there’s so many different careers within that — like I said, the ateliers, in marketing, in sales," said Copping. “So it’s a very rich and invigorating place to work. It’s an interesting time for fashion. The great thing is that it’s constantly needing new blood to come in and push things forward.”
Aspiring designers have only to watch Copping to get a sense of how it’s done.
Danielle Styles is a public relations manager at SCAD Atlanta.