Legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who was a couturier to socialites for more than 40 years died on Monday, October 20, 2014 at age 82.
De la Renta’s death was confirmed by his wife, Annette de la Renta. He died in his home in Kent, Connecticut, surrounded by those he loved. The cause of his death was not immediately identified. It is said that he died from cancer complications, which he was diagnosed with in 2006. However, he told the public that he was “totally clear,” last year after battling with it for seven years.
Born into the elite in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on July 22, 1932, de la Renta became known for draping women in chiffon gowns and making them feel and look beautiful. “Any girl from any walk of life dreams of that special dress, and I try to make that dream a reality for her,” he has been quoted saying. From wedding dresses and red carpet gowns to fragrances, de la Renta has done it all.
At age 18 de la Renta left for Spain to study at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. There he studied painting but soon discovered his true passion. For extra money, he drew clothes for fashion houses and newspapers. After the wife of the U.S Ambassador to Spain, Francesca Lodge, saw his dress sketches, she commissioned him to design a gown for her daughter. This dress appeared on the cover of Life magazine in the fall and inspired him to pursue a career in fashion. He began sketching for leading Spanish fashion houses and soon landed an apprenticeship with Spain’s most renowned couturier, Cristobal Balenciaga. De la Renta saw Balenciaga as his mentor and deemed this period as the beginning of his learning experience. In 1961 he moved to Paris. “If you want to establish an international presence you can’t do so from New York. You need the consecration of Paris,” he once said.
In Paris, de la Renta began working as a couturier assistant at the well-known fashion house, Lanvin. Two years later, de la Renta followed the advice of the editor-in-chief of Vogue, Diana Vreeland, and became a designer for Elizabeth Arden. It was then that he was able to create a name for himself and was the defining moment in his career. In 1965 the Oscar de la Renta brand was launched and he soon became fashion’s favorite ladies’ man. His ready-to-wear designs were worn by a diverse group of women, including celebrities. “My customers are successful workingwomen,” the late designer once praised. His main inspiration always came from women. De la Renta was raised by women and found them to be beautiful and powerful. His brand eventually branched off into fragrances, home décor, furniture and bridal wear.
Oscar de la Renta became a fashion icon, and remains to be today. Celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Amy Adams and Penelope Cruz wore his dresses to the red carpet. He was also known for dressing every first lady since Jacqueline Kennedy. Oscar de la Renta definitely left his mark in the fashion industry. “I’ve lived every day to the fullest, and I’ve had a marvelous time. I’ve tried to be nice to the people I care about, and ignore the ones I don’t. I enjoy what I’ve done,” he once said. Oscar de la Renta’s creativity, intelligence and love for life will live on not only in his clothes, but also in those he inspired.
by VICTORIA WELER / contributing writer