institution: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
category: Exhibition Media or Experience
This multimedia guide leads visitors through an exhibition of the opulent gowns created by fashion icon Oscar de la Renta over a 60-year career. Designed as an “eyes up” experience and delivered on an iPod Touch, the guide brings the gowns to life with intimate, funny, and deeply informed audio commentary by Vogue editor emeritus Andre Leon Talley, who was a long-time friend and collaborator of the designer. Along the way, he is joined by Oscar de la Renta’s daughter, close friends, clients, seamstresses, and fellow designers, who offer their own insights about the man, his creative process, and the way his designs have shaped the evolution of fashion. Oscar de la Renta appears on the guide as well, in exclusive archival audio recorded by Antenna in the early 2000s, and video segments provided by his estate. In total, the guide features 45 minutes of audio storytelling, nearly 50 photos, 8 videos, and 10 original sketches.
The visual design of the guide was developed in close collaboration with the ODLR House archivist and the deYoung Museum’s exhibition designers. Each gallery of the retrospective exhibition was organized with a unique theme and visual style, from a flamenco-inspired atmosphere for Spanish dresses, to a 1970’s disco era, to a fanciful mis-en-scene in Marie Antoinette’s garden. The multimedia guide incorporated the look and feel of each of these galleries in its screens, so that it became an integral part of the visitor’s environmental experience, rather than being an interpretive tool tacked-on after-the-fact.
Because of the lush textures and visuals in the exhibition, the guide is organized primarily as an audio experience with optional opportunities for deeper dives, such as videos of ODLR fashion shows spanning five decades, and Red Carpet fashion moments with celebrities like Taylor Swift and Sarah Jessica Parker wearing the dresses on view in the exhibition. It also includes an explorable sketchbook of ODLR original designs, some never seen before by the public, set in an environment created by Antenna’s designers to give visitors the sense that they were encountering the sketches at the desk as they were being worked on.
These elements added a sense of surprise and delight as visitors explored the exhibition, leading to exit comments such as “the guide was as great as the dresses themselves,” and “The audio tour was outstanding – extraordinarily well done and informative.”