This past Monday the fashion world got a shock when Oscar de la Renta was confirmed dead by his wife at his home in Kent, Connecticut. He was 82 and had been battling cancer for the past eight years.
Renta was born on July 2, 1932 in the Dominican Republic, the only son of seven children. At 18 he left on a passenger boat to Madrid, where he would study at The Academy of San Fernando. His original dream was to become an abstract painter, however the world of fashion charmed him enough to make him leave that dream behind and start a new one.
He would draw designs for newspapers and fashion houses for extra money. Some of these designs were seen by the wife of the U.S. ambassador to Spain. She then asked him to design a gown for her daughter, who later made an appearance on on the cover of Life magazine.
Renta then became the apprentice to Spain’s most renowned designer at the time, Cristobal Balenciaga. He then moved to Paris where he got offered jobs at Christian Dior and Lanvin. He chose Lanvin because they a offered him a bit more money, and he stayed with them for three years. After that he moved to the United States where he became a designer for Elizabeth Arden. In 1965 he became partner and designer for the Seven Avenue company of Jane Derby.
During the late 1960s be worked on his first fashion line. When he debuted his collection of ready-to-wear designs, it changed the fashion world, with his style that was both modern and feminine. Renta went on to work on a home line, furniture, and fragrances. He won many awards through the years, such as the Coty Awards that are the fashion equivalent to the Oscars. Renta became the first American designer to show at Paris Fashion Week in 1991. He was also awarded with the position of president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 1973 to 1976 and from 1987 to 1989.
Renta’s gowns were worn by many starlets. Including many presidential First Ladies. He helped Hillary Clinton become a fashion icon with his designs of her signature bright pastel pantsuits (he practically came up with the idea of the pantsuit). Most recently he designed the gown that the newly Mrs. Clooney wore at her wedding.
Renta was not afraid to voice his opinions, in 2009 he criticized first lady, Michelle Obama, for wearing a J.Crew Cardigan to meet the Queen Elizabeth. This month Mrs. Obama joined the long list of fist ladies by wearing Oscar de la Renta to the Fashion Education Workshop at the White House.
“Never, ever confuse what happens on a runway with fashion, a runway is spectacle. It’s only fashion when a woman puts it on.” -Oscar De La Renta
He was praised for being one of the few fashion designers who knew the difference between the runway and fashion.
The first time I ever witnessed one of his creations was when I was watching the Britain premier of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Emma Watson looked like a modern princess when she stepped onto the red carpet. I was surprised to see gold and gray put together;I just never thought of those two colors complementing each other. The whole look just looked so effortless.
P.S. J.K Rowling was also wearing Oscar De La Renta at the premier.
Oscar de la Renta was one of the first designers I actually cared enough to want to learn about his work. I didn’t get completely bored when I saw one of his fashion shows. I don’t want to talk about my favorite gowns he has created because the list would be endless. Even though this aesthetic genius has passed away, his legacy will remain.
“Being well dressed hasn’t much to do with having good clothes. It’s a question of good balance and good common sense.”-Oscar de la Renta