A Dash of Kindness and a Heap of Confidence

by Amy Marie Slocum

SCAD FASH Opens in Atlanta With
"Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style"
In February of 2015 Andre Leon Talley curated an exhibition of over 70 gowns designed by his dear friend Oscar de la Renta at the Savannah campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). This month—coinciding with the one year anniversary of the seminal designer’s death, Talley’s release of a biography of de la Renta via Rizzoli, and the grand opening of SCAD FASH, a new museum on the fourth floor of the vast and impeccably designed Atlanta campus—SCAD has chosen to reprise their February Savannah show in the new space.

“Over the years,” says SCAD President Paula Wallace, “Oscar [de la Renta] took a personal interest in our students, donating materials and garments for research and inspiration, and hiring them as interns. This exhibition was a natural extension of that close relationship that I will forever cherish.”

Although Laurie Ann Farrell, curator of the exhibition, spent the last year drawing inspiration from design exhibitions all over the world, she pointed to a specific exhibition, Drawing Fashion, which showed at the Design Museum in London in 2010 in terms of how the show should be arranged and put into context. “We looked to the garments first, and we had an understanding of what our different options were for the show, and we did a lot of research, and looking at how people have been showing fashion; we wanted a bit of a contemporary departure.”

Although the show was a departure from the previous February's SCAD exhibition, which was curated by Talley, and organized into vignettes showing the garments in poses and environments as they might have been worn, SCAD FASH’s current exhibition is organized into rooms within the gallery space that reflect the mood of the clothes, and the era of de la Renta’s career that they represent. Starting with Taylor Swift’s imposing pink Met Gala dress from 2014, the viewer is plunged straight into the '60s with a cashmere day dress worn originally by C.Z. Guest, a timeless look that holds the distinction of being Farrell’s favorite from the collection. The museumgoer is shepherded through the decades, with a few famed gowns thrown in, (Sarah Jessica Parker’s velvet and duchesse satin evening dress
from the Met Gala 2014, and the silk evening dress
worn by Beyoncé in a 2013 Vogue cover being notables) before ending with what Farrell calls the “romance room” containing a silk embroidered wedding dress designed for his step-daughter, Eliza Reed Bolen, and the Marie Antoinette-inspired, Watteau-pleated gown worn by Kirsten Dunst on the cover of Vogue in 2006. Overlaying the impeccable garments are projections produced by SCAD alumni Whitney and Micah Stansell themed to every room, the “romance room” has an elegant grey hue, the ball gowns are paired with champagne bubbles and fireworks, and the FLOTUS looks are bathed in a regal golden light.

The exhibition casts a wide angle on de la Renta’s oeuvre and influence—including the label’s first steps into the future under the auspices of Copping—fitting for a museum that is also a teaching space, where students are encouraged to examine the garments (under the supervision of Farrell). A documentary of the February exhibition, "Ovation for Oscar," plays in a well-appointed lounge area as you emerge from the show, created by SCAD students, faculty and alumni, and featuring Sloane Mayberry, a SCAD student at the time, who was chosen by Talley to assist in the preparations.

Widely considered the “fashion capital of the South” the opening of SCAD FASH will surely secure that title with exhibitions as diverse as I Feel Ya: SCAD + André 3000 Benjamin, devoted to the fashion of André 3000, and Art x Fashion, opening this April, which will explore the intersection between art and design.