Oscar de la Renta died Monday night at age 82 after a long battle with cancer. His good looks, fascination with feminine style, strong color sense and impeccable social skills including a wonderful sense of humor made him dressmaker to the international set and a designer for First Ladies from Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush. Michelle Obama recently donned one of his dresses at the White House event for fashion students.
He made women look and feel beautiful. Romantic, glamorous styles were his signature. His designs were tasteful, extravagant, and Paris-influenced with an undercurrent of Latin pizazz. He was best-known for his designs for the likes of Babe Paley, C.Z. Guest and Marella Agnelli, along with other aristocrats and socialites, performers, broadcasters and top executives. They were not just his customers but many became his friends. De la Renta always remained current and his designs were worn by younger women including actresses Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Garner and Lea Michele.
De la Renta was born July 22, 1932, in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. When he was 18 he went to Madrid to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando, where he began sketching for top Spanish fashion houses and began working for couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga. Next he went to Paris, where he became a couture assistant to Antonio Castillo, who then was the designer of Lanvin. In 1963, he came to New York to design the made-to-measure collection for Elizabeth Arden. Nicolas de Gunzburg, a White Russian aristocrat who was an editor at Vogue, was one of his mentors. Diana Vreeland advised de la Renta to take the position at Arden, because his own name would be promoted there since Arden herself wasn’t a designer.
Key to the designer’s success was a gift for feminine friendship and an elegant lifestyle. His longtime business partner Jerry Shaw said it was the designer’s way with society women that made his career. “Oscar really caters to the ladies,” he said. “He knows how to design beautiful clothes and make women look very attractive.”
The editors of Second City Style will miss him. He was innovative until the end and his legacy will live on.
– Carol Calacci
Source: WWD, Photo : WSJ
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