Behind yards of tulle and untold swatches of cotton-poly blends, about 30 Kent State University fashion design juniors and seniors are putting the finishing touches on the portfolios for their annual fashion show April 20. Then, they’ll send their creations down the runway and past a rather prolific guest of honor, Oscar de la Renta.
The man who dressed Jessica Biel in a raspberry halter dress and Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson in chocolate chiffon for this year’s Oscar Awards ceremony knows a thing or two about the fashion world — he’s been designing his signature label since 1965.
For the young KSU designers, seeing de la Renta in the audience will add a little extra pressure, but the iconic fashion
designer has provided inspiration, too.
Senior Caitlin Hickerson recently returned to the Kent campus to finish her degree after interning in New York City. She has repeatedly looked to de la Renta’s work for guidance. “What I find most impressive about his work is the timelessness of his pieces,” she says.
Senior Andrew Danals, who created a boxing-themed collection titled “Sweat,” says de la Renta also has influenced his work. “My color story of red, black and cream resembles Oscar’s traditional colors,” he says. “But my collection is really based on my own aesthetic. I believe in structure paired with fluidity — harsh elements with soft materials.”
Though de la Renta won’t judge the students’ designs, having a fashion legend in the audience elevates an annual senior rite of passage to “Project Runway”-like proportions. “I won’t settle for my garments to have any flaws!” says Hickerson.
Oscar de la Renta has donated several gifts to Kent State University over the last 25 years ranging from dresses designed for Jane Derby in the 1960s to four gowns from his spring 2006 collection. Oscar de la Renta: American Elegance will be on display at Kent State University through Sept. 2. Fashion students pick their favorites for us below:
1| “My favorite piece is a horizontally striped caftan for his ‘resort’ collection,” says Andrew Danals. “The execution of drape and fit and the way he allows the stripe to flow from one side of the body to the other is all very eloquent.”
2| Danals was equally impressed by one of the 2006 pieces, a princess-seamed strapless gown made of black lace. “This gown is a signature ‘red carpet look’ of Oscar’s. The understructure of the dress has an impeccable fit.”
3| Caitlin Hickerson prefers pieces from the earliest stages of Oscar’s career. “The black silk crepe cocktail dress he designed for Jane Derby could be worn next week.”
4| “Oscar’s evening dress from 2006 in silver lamé couldn’t be placed as coming out of this decade,” Hickerson says. “His work spans so many years, covers many looks, yet his blatant sophistication, flair for color and detailing can be recognized as a constant throughout the decades.”