FASHION NEWS: ICONIC DESIGNER OSCAR DE LA RENTA PASSES AT 82
Legendary couturier Oscar de la Renta died at 82 on Monday night. After upholding a half-century old stage in the fashion world, de la Renta was finally able to rest his golden thumbs. Having dressed a number of First Ladies to A-list celebrities, the gentlemanly designer time and again awed his adoring audience with his signature romantically lavish and colorfully bold dresses with his namesake brand Oscar de la Renta that he established in 1965. His last efforts were laced into the bridal collection that Amal Clooney recently donned alongside George Clooney. Starting with Jacqueline Kennedy, Oscar quickly won the admiration of notable names including Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and most recently Michelle Obama. Although the cause of his death was not explicitly stated, it had been known that de la Renta was diagnosed with cancer in 2006; however, just last year he stated that he was “totally clean.”
The “sultan of suave,” coined by Mallis, had became the highest standard of elegance that some jokingly claim that the Academy Awards are called “the Oscars,” because everyone is wearing a de la Renta on the red carpet. Not only did he design gowns for socialites and executives, he also offered gracious friendships making him a particular favorite to Sarah Jessica Parker. His fame was earned through his earnest and comprehensive style, which he honed starting from the age of 18 when he left his birth home in the Dominican Republic to study painting in Madrid. There he discovered his love for fashion design and took up an apprenticeship with Cristóbal Balenciaga. Moving from Spain to Paris, France, de la Renta became a couture assistant to Antonio Castillo who was a designer for Lanvin at the time. Shortly after in 1963, Oscar moved to New York City to make a made-to-measure collection for Elizabeth Arden.
“When I first arrived here in 1963, all the names on clothes were the name of [the store],” he told Gotham magazine in an interview last year. “You made your clothes, you sold them to the store, and they quickly removed the label and put the label of the store. If it was a dress at Saks Fifth Avenue, the label was Saks Fifth Avenue. Bergdorf Goodman was Bergdorf Goodman. But it was a time of transition.”
It was no question that his adoring female friends who vouched for his talent and witnessed his sophisticated lifestyle aided his immediate rise into high fashion. First entering New York, he lived in a two-story townhouse filled with period furniture and Spanish paintings. His charms eventually allowed him to win the heart of Francoise de Langlade, an editor-in-chief of French Vogue, in 1967. She died of bone cancer in 1983. In 1990, de la Renta remarried to Annette Engelhard Reed. They had a son, Moses, and also nurtured his children and grandchildren from both of his marriages, in addition to his other child: his modest garden.
In addition to a lifetime of achievements, between the years 1973-1976 and 1986-1988 de la Renta prevailed as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CDFA). Throughout his career, Oscar de la Renta won international acclaim and recognition prompting a slew of fashion awards. In 1990, he won the CDFA Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1991, he received the Perennial Success Award for his perfume, Oscar, which was a beset seller in over 70 countries. In 2000, he was presented the CDFA Women’s Wear Designer of the Year Award. He won the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award twice and entered the Coty Hall of Fame in 1973. Hillary Clinton presented his most recent award to him in June 2013; he earned the CFDA Founders Award.
“A huge mistake we make is forgetting that one day we will die,” he told Gotham. “We think that we are going to live forever. I always say life is a little like a garden. There is a time to plant, then a time you have to weed. Just think about people you’ve deeply cared for. And then think of the people you wish you’d spent more time with. I always say this: Live, love and laugh.”
Images: WireImage; Oscar PR Girl; Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images