Oscar de la Renta's Furious With the NYT's Cathy Horyn. Was It All Just A Big Misunderstanding?

By Jessica Barbanel September 14, 2012 4:51 PM EDT
Oscar de la Renta talks with a model before she walks the runway during a show of his Spring 2013 collection during New York Fashion Week, September 11, 2012

Reuters (Photo: Reuters / Reuters)

It all started with two innocent words: hot dog. But Oscar de la Renta wasn't amused. 

On Wednesday, The New York Times published a review by fashion writer Cathy Horyn about four shows - Narcisco Rodriguez, Sophie Theallet, Oscar de la Renta and Michael Kors - in which Horyn described De la Renta as a "hot dog."

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"Mr. de la Renta is far more a hot dog than an éminence grise of American fashion," she wrote.

Outraged by the comparison, De la Renta placed a full-page ad in Women's Wear Daily, saying: "I respect and accept criticism ... What I do not accept is when criticism is personal. If you have the right to call me a hot dog why do I not have the right to call you a stale 3-day old hamburger? My advice to you is to abstain from personal criticism. Professionals criticize the clothes, not the people." 

But Horyn insists it's all been a huge misunderstanding. "I used the term in a professional context, as someone showing off his tricks, like a surfer," Horyn told Fashionologie. "I thought an ad was a little over-the-top." 

In the 1950s, "hotdogging" referred to surfers who surfed for fun not function. Not concerned with making the wave, the surfers chose flash over substance, fans argued.

Though this explanation makes a lot more sense than a hot dog in a bun, it doesn't make it any more positive. Horyn has long been known for her say-anything candor. If she likes your collection she will rave - this season, Narciso Rodriguez, Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler were some of the beneficiaries. If she doesn't she can be brutal.

Two of her other victims this week were fashion darlings Alexander Wang and Prabal Gurung. Disappointed with their collections, she wrote: "It wasn't the heat or threat of my colleagues being sucked into a tornado. No, that didn't annoy me. It was the soggy drama taking place in the name of daring new fashion: namely, Prabal Gurung and Alexander Wang."

"Lately," she continued, "instead of being truly free-spirited, some of these designers have begun to seem as malevolently insistent as an Oompa Loompa chanting, "If you are wise, you'll follow me."

Horyn often says what other people are thinking but don't have the courage to say. At one time, there were a number of publications that published no-holds-barred reviews. But with so many fashion websites and lingering problems with the economy, everyone's vying for increasingly elusive advertisers and readership. As a consequence, many editors tiptoe around touchy subjects, i.e. a not-so-stellar collection.

Whatever you want to say about Horyn - or the words "hot dog" - she speaks her mind. No matter what the consequences are.

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