Oscar de la Renta A Fashion Designer You Should Know


“He was the first American designer to create haute couture for a Paris fashion house.  For decades his glamorous dresses have embodied Upper East Side chic, the style of New York’s high society.”

“Since 1965 Oscar de la Renta has been designing glamorous gowns for American high society and has dressed four First Ladies (Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush).  [Michelle Obama]






“He is the president and creative director of a fashion business that despite the economic crisis had sales of a 100 million dollars in 2008.  The story of Oscar de la Renta is one hundred percent American Dream.  It is the story of a Latino boy who grew up with six sisters in the Dominican Republic, moved to Madrid at the age of eighteen to study painting, became an assistant of Balenciaga and ten years later plunged into the world of Paris haute couture at the side of Lanvin designer Antonio Castilo–and who, finally, founded his own label in New York at the age of thirty-three.

“Today his company headquarters in Manhattan’s Garment District shares a building with two other American design sars, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan.  It was not only talent but also his business sense that could be seen early on.  Oscar de la Renta left the fashion metropolis of Paris after only three years with the firm resolve to transplant his knowledge of haute couture to New York, the city of endess possibilities, in the form of a ready-to-wear line of his ow.  He had understood that haute couture was the icing on the cake of fashion, but pret-a-porter is the cake itself.  Diana Vreeland, then editor in chief of American Vogue, was able to convince him that he should spend a few more years training as designer of Elizabeth Arden’s custom-tailored line.  In 1965 he at last founded his own fashion house.  Five years later, one couldn’t have imagined the New York fashion scene without him.


“His style is still reminiscent of the Paris school.  Oscar de la Renta is known for precise, figure-flattering tailoring, and for extravagant details such as ruffles and applique.


“Combined with his Latin American preference for strong colors and his typically American instince tor wearability, this is the secret of his enduring success over several decades. … For him quality is just as important as efficiency.  Instead of employing fourteen seamstresses with two sewing machines as at Balmain (where almost everything was hand-made), in his New York studio he gave each seamstress her own sewing machine, so, he said, ‘We can make those dreamy fantasies a reality for many more women.’ …

” ‘Fashion is only fashion once a woman puts it on.’ ”


p. 51

NEWS:  Oscar de la Renta Dead at 82; Fashion Designer Dressed Countless Celebrities, First Ladies and Other Style Icons

“The only realities in life are that you are born, and that you die,” he said. “We always think we are going to live forever. The dying aspect we will never accept. The one thing about having this kind of warning is how you appreciate every single day of life.”

Asked about possibly getting out of the high-fashion game, de la Renta replied, “People ask me, ‘At your age, when are you going to retire?’ I think every single day there is a learning process. For a long time…I wondered what would happen to the brand when I am no longer here. But I will be here for a very, very long time.”

The two-time winner of the American Fashion Critics’ Award served as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 1973 until 1976 and again from 1986 till 1988. He was honored with the CFDA’s Founders Award last year.

“De la Renta” has been repeated so many times on the red carpet in response to the question “Who are you wearing?” that it’s conceivable to have thought that “the Oscars” was a refereance to the designer rather than the Academy Awards. At the Emmys in August, Zooey Deschanel and Allison Williams were among the stars who stunned in de la Renta.


In May, Sarah Jessica Parker‘s black and white de la Renta confection, featuring the designer’s signature scrawled on the train in red, was the standout look at the Met Gala.

“Did you see his name on the back?” Parker asked during a chat with Vanity Fair. “I said to Mr. De la Renta, please let me use scarlet embroidery thread, and splash your name across the back. It was my idea. He would never in a million years have done it, he’s far too modest.”

Known for his own always-dapper style, de la Renta told Vanity Fair in 2009, “I have to tell you that I’ve been dressing this way since I was a young man. I was 18 years old when I arrived in Spain, and at that time you could have a custom-made suit for eight dollars.”

“Do you know why I almost always wear a tie?” he added. “I have this complex that if I walk into a place wearing a colorful shirt someone will stop me and say, ‘I’m sorry, but the Latin band comes through the other door.'”

His fashion empire ultimately spanned the gamut from haute couture and red-carpet-ready evening wear to bridal gowns, ready-to-wear, fragrance and home furnishings.

De la Renta frankly let it be known that his clothes were designed for the woman who gave a damn about what she was wearing.

Asked what sort of woman he had in mind when he designed, he told VF, “Let me tell you, it was never the ladies who lunch. They never lunched! They always wanted to stay thin. You want to know who my customer is? All the women who can afford to buy my clothes! My customers are successful workingwomen. They might be spending less at the moment, but my approach is that fashion must always be optimistic, and that a woman will always be enticed by beautiful clothes.”

De la Renta’s first marriage, to French Vogue editor-in-chief Françoise de Langlade, ended when she passed away in 1983. He is survived by his second wife, Annette Engelhard, and son Moises. He also had step-children from both of his marriages.



About jackikellum

Jacki Kellum is a Fine Artist, a Designer, and also a writer. For one of her graduate programs, she wrote her thesis on William Blake. Like Blake, much of Kellum's work is about childhood and lost innocence. Also like Blake, Kellum strives to both write and illustrate her work. .
This entry was posted in 50 Fashion Designers You Should Know, Diana Vreeland, Haute Couture, Oscar de la Renta and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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