Friday was truly magical in Charlotte.
Designer Oscar de la Renta was in town for The Art of Style benefit at the Mint Museum Uptown. Before the big event, which featured a runway presentation of his fall 2011 collection as well as a collection of locally-owned Oscar de la Renta gowns, I had the opportunity to chat with the legend who has dressed countless celebrities and women in politics.
In his suite at the Ritz-Carlton, de la Renta, 78, shared his thoughts on a variety of topics and ever-so-casually name dropped Coco Chanel during our conversation.
He said it had been about five years since his last visit to Charlotte, and that he was pleasantly surprised by the positive changes he sees in the town.
He also said that there is no time more exciting to be a designer than right now. “There is no loyalty among consumers,” he says. “Women are much more in control today. They wear clothes that are a projection of themselves as individuals. It’s an exciting time.”
His take on Kate Middleton’s wedding dress? “It was simple, traditional, the dress wasn’t trying to be ‘something,’” he says. “It’s understatedness sent a very good message, and she was always wearing a great smile. You got the sense that these two people deeply care for each other.”
He followed that declaration with the Coco Chanel story, which he said the iconic designer told him years ago over lunch. It was a lengthy story in which Coco says the LBD is the most unsexy thing she’s ever seen. It’s far more sexy, he said she shared, to be wear a simple tailored suit with a strand of pearls. Leave a little to the imagination, he inferred from Coco, and you’ll drive the men wild.
And of course, I had to ask about his very public comments about First Lady Michelle Obama’s wardrobe. To that, he answered: “Only in this country — well with the exception of Carla Bruni(-Sarkozy) in France — do we care what the first lady wears. President Obama was elected, (Michelle Obama) was not. But, she represents an image, whether she wants to or not, that people expect from the first lady.
“It’s a learning process. Perhaps she was not prepared to be the first lady. I think it’s just a lost opportunity. Would I love to dress her? Of course. Who wouldn’t?
“But if she wears something by a young American designer, that may mean that designer can then hire 20 more people. It’s just a lost opportunity to promote our industry here.”