Photo courtesy of Savannah Film Festival
Written by Paige Cano
Fashion is renowned for the intense pressure and stress it holds in store for those brave enough to pursue it, whether breaking into the industry or maintaining one’s status. Hailed as a fashion genius, Oscar de la Renta’s first posthumous exhibition, “Oscar de la Renta: Legendary World of Style,” was assembled in a mere 30 days at the SCAD Museum of Art and recorded in the documentary “Ovation for Oscar.” Oscar de la Renta made it in the grandest sense possible: he became a legend, and is the first example of the rise of the celebrity designer. Don’t discount the documentary’s quality because of its length — these 20 minutes reveal the depth and love that de la Renta put into his garments, and appreciating them isn’t solely for the fashion elite.
In the original vision for the film, a concept of director Ryan Curtis, André Leon Talley would personally discuss the story and creation process of every garment in the exhibition. Talley was a long-time friend of de la Renta, and the designer’s passing in 2014 was still too painful to face upon discussing such intimate details about the clothing.
Curtis and producer Tyler Reid needed a backup plan. Blind auditions led them to then-third-year SCAD fashion student Sloane Mayberry, an obvious choice after she opened a garment box and gasped aloud at the sight of the dress within. That passion, they concluded, was the best course to document.
During Mayberry’s senior year of high school, she had the opportunity to assist in the early stages of Oscar de la Renta’s archive all the way from Charlotte, North Carolina. She kept in touch, and over spring break one year, Mayberry was invited to the New York office. “I brought my resume, business cards, handing them out and just really kept in touch and the archivist told me that André was going to come here and do an exhibition and I offered to help and got an email the next day.”
Thirty days until opening, and Mayberry was spending days and nights on the exhibition while trying to balance school (with many, many Diet Cokes), following her leadership role concerning the minor details exhibition-goers take for granted. Draping on the mannequin had to be just so to fully show off a fabric’s character and the garment’s unique personality, which is preceded by a delicate steaming session while wearing gloves to protect the fabric.
The days were long and the nights were longer. Sleep was a luxury and a distraction. Mayberry’s schedule was the typical busy college experience, but tenfold. The pressure to impress the entire fashion world hung overhead, from André Leon Talley’s expectations to Anna Wintour and beyond.
But the results were worth it. The SCAD museum looked like an afternoon stroll with Oscar through his garden, with French doors, to a carriage, to a wall of pink and red roses. The smells of dried paint and sawed wood were finally replaced with satisfaction for Mayberry, a sense of peace, upon strolling through the exhibit following opening evening, high heels swinging in her hand.
The passion expressed throughout the film is almost tangible from the exhibition staff, SCAD professors and visiting fashion icons, and even the film makers themselves. There’s a feeling of warmth, as if the love for the garments and de la Renta himself are wrapping you in a blanket — a couture blanket, of course. Leaving the theater with a new appreciation for Oscar de la Renta — the brand and the person — is a guarantee.