Around Town: Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows Celebrate American Fashion at the Met

oscar de la renta iman pat cleveland

Fashion folks braved Monday’s single-digit temperatures to attend the Metropolitan Museum’s luncheon honoring the models of the Grand Divertissement à Versailles, a little-known 1973 fashion show credited with putting American fashion on the map.

Five American designers—Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Bill Blass, and Anne Klein—wowed the French with their minimalist designs on a multicultural mix of models.

Eight of those models attended Monday’s luncheon, hosted by de la Renta and Burrows, the only surviving designers.

“The designers themselves said, 'Well, it was those black girls that were on the stage, and they just transformed the presentation,'” Costume Institute curator Harold Koda explained.

The idea to celebrate the models formed last year when Koda sat next to one of them, Alva Chinn.

“It was sort of in my mind: There must be something related to the fashion models themselves that was significant in terms of bringing women of color into breaking through the white establishment of fashion,” he said.

Chinn reminisced about the Versailles show: “I could feel that they were rapt; we had the audience throughout the whole show. When I think of the programs flying in the air, I have goose pimples to this day.”

Pat Cleveland, who also walked that 1973 runway, likened it to rallying the troops for their country.

“We had something to prove, we were going to show them we are the new fashionistas, we are the couture,” Cleveland said of the triumph. “We wanted to prove ourselves as being great, and that’s what happened.”

De la Renta revealed that Donna Karan was also at the Versailles event, nine months pregnant and working as an assistant to Anne Klein. Karan said the show was one of the highlights of her life and dubbed de la Renta “the father of Versailles.”

“I think the greatest moment I had in my career was at Versailles,” Burrows told the crowd.

De la Renta noted that unlike the Americans, the five French Versailles designers—archrivals Dior, Cardin, Givenchy, Saint Laurent, and Ungaro—lacked cohesiveness in their presentation.

“What was wonderful is that we were five designers, and for a very short time we were all one,” he said. “At Versailles we had these unbelievable, extraordinary, beautiful girls walking so beautifully, and they really made the presentation magical. And at the very end of the show there was a standing ovation because, for the first time in Paris, they saw all these extraordinary girls moving in the most unbelievable way to extraordinary music.”

The next day we found ourselves at yet another museum, the New Museum, for artist George Condo’s opening, where along with celebrities like Kanye West and Mary-Kate Olsen were, yep, more fashion folks.

Menswear designer Adam Kimmel was jet-lagged after showing his line in Paris just a few days earlier. He had actually collaborated with Condo on a capsule collection and said that he has sent the artist clothes but hasn’t yet had the chance to dress West.

Marc Jacobs, who called Condo’s work “crazy and stimulating,” checked out the exhibition with his ex Lorenzo Martone.

Photo: Iman, Oscar de la Renta and Pat Cleveland at The MET tribute event.