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.

Oscar de la Renta: Is This as Opulent as It Gets?

Godfrey Deeny
September 13th, 2011 @ 6:50 PM - New York

Is there a classier designer anywhere than Oscar de la Renta? Hard to know of any rival after witnessing his latest show, staged an the 25th floor of a mid-town skyscraper at sunset Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Part hallucinatory vision of high glamour, part super chic Elizabethan folly and part uptown style at its most lavish, this will surely be the pinnacle of high-end panache we'll witness in the four week season of spring 2012 collections that began in New York last week and ends in Paris next month.

From the get go there was plenty of drama - in a show that opened with a trio of swirling taffeta gowns topped by tight guipure or lace mini jackets. Worn on models, their hair teased out into huge tresses, their ears bestrewn with chandelier diamond earrings, this was no-holds-barred grand glam.

Yet, while opulent and patrician, de la Renta was not in the least formulaic, as his sequel - a dozen all-white summer dresses - brilliantly displayed. Created in Battenberg lace, hand cut cottons and silk voile they were dreamily sexy. One, in particular, cut in thatches of embroidered cotton and finished shiny appliqués had the avant garde feel of great arty Japanese design with the authority of West Coast American chic.

De la Renta remains a great colorist, and his palette this season of peppermint, faded chartreuse and soft rose captured spring far better than nearly any other show in Manhattan, crammed as the rest were with obvious floral prints.

Artfully styled by Alex White, the models were bedecked in small thickets of costume jewelry and accessories - carved resin earrings, multi-faceted stone brooches, rose gold necklaces with peridot and jonquil diamonds and alligator metal belts. The enormous richness of each outfit juxtaposed by the setting - the designer's new headquarters, now still a dusty construction site with exposed metal beams and loose wiring everywhere.

Building into evening, the Dominican-born designer wowed with stunning tassel cocktail dresses, rabbit and raccoon boleros, georgette lame columns and a sensational Yves Klein blue layered Red Carpet look as the soundtrack caught the tough romanticism of the collection with Led Zeppelin heavy metal ballads reworked by art rick band Lock Lomond.

Though he turned 79 this summer, the designer seems as energetic as a teenager. He is so on top of his game, he found time to stroll around the catwalk before his show, embracing Italian designer Valentino in the front row. Somehow, they very presence of the retired Roman couturier felt like the imprimatur on de la Renta's lofty status. With Yves Saint Laurent and Gianfranco Ferre both departed, Givenchy long retired and the haute couture in Paris dominated by creators more interested in beautiful aesthetic exercises rather the more obviously simple task of creating beautiful clothes, de la Renta has reached a unique position of pre-eminence in his profession.

Like we said, today he's the classiest act in town, make that on the planet.

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