Oscar de la Renta - an award winning and renowned fashion designer
Oscar de la Renta 1932 - 2014
When one hears the name Oscar de la Renta, it conjures up the images of beautiful, feminine, elegant and sophisticated dresses and gowns. de la Renta has been an award winning fashion designer of some of the most gorgeous dresses and gowns in the world and he has dressed some of the most important women along with celebrities and film stars.
Known as the "Sultan of Suave," de la Renta himself was the epitome of the suave, debonair, elegant gentleman whose charisma engaged some of the exclusive women in the world. He recently has passed away and he has been described as the "last survivor of the generation of bold, all-seeing tastemakers." (NYTimes).
Some fashion designers had bigger businesses than del la Renta, some designers were more original, but none have been as fearless enough to adjust to a cultural shift twice during his fashion years.
When asked "What is Oscar del la Renta?" The answer is "It is a pretty dress."
What I have always liked and admired about Oscar de la Renta is that he designs dresses and gowns that are very wearable. His designs flatter the woman and bring out her best features. He designs ready-to-wear dresses that can be worn right off the runway. He does not design "costumes" as some designers do that overpower the woman and her figure, so that you notice the clothing instead of the woman. His dresses are feminine many times with lots of ruffles and the woman feels beautiful and elegant in his clothing. His designs become one with the woman and emphasizes her beauty and elegance first, his designs second.
In an Oscar de la Renta dress or gown, the woman wears the gown and the gown does not wear the woman. The soft silhouette of his dresses fall down the figure of the woman and become one with her.
1967-1968 Coty Award (Oscar award of the fashion world)
1973 inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame; inducted into the American Fashion Critics Hall of Fame; named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame
1990 CFDA Lifegtime Achievement Award
2000 Council of Fashion Designers Designer of the Year; tied with Proenza Schoule for this same award in 2007.
Two time winner of the American Fashion Critics Award
Gold Medal of Bellas Artes, La Gran Cruz de la Orden del Merito Civil - from King Juan Carlos of Spain
Legion d'honneur as a Commander - from the French government
Order of Merit Duarte Sanchez and Mella and Order of Christopher Columbus - from the Dominican Republic
Ambassador at Large of the Dominican Republic.
The life of Oscar de la Renta
Oscar Aristides Renta Fiallo became known to the fashion world as Oscar de la Renta. He is remembered as one of the most renowned clothing designers in the world and is known for his elegant and sophisticated designs.
He was born in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, to a Dominican mother of Spanish descent, and a Puerto Rican father. The Fiallos were part of Dominican society and they are a family of poets, scholars, businessmen, army brass and diplomats.
So, even in his childhood he was recognized as the son of a social family and this made it somewhat easy for him to slide into society as a fashion designer.
At age 19, he left the Dominican Republic and went to Madrid, Spain to study painting at the famed Academy of San Fernando. To earn extra money while in school, he drew clothes for newspapers and fashion houses.
During his time at school in Madrid, the wife of the U.S. Ambassador to Spain saw some of de la Renta's dress sketches and she commissioned him to design a gown for her daughter which he did. He achieved a bit of fame when the dress he designed appeared on the cover of Life magazine. His talent for illustrations of clothing opened a new door for him in the fashion world. His study of art and painting walked out the door, and the world of fashion walked in.
After this, he quickly became interested in the world of fashion design and began sketching for leading Spanish fashion houses. This led to an apprenticeship with Spain's leading couturier, Cristobal Balenciaga. de la Renta always considered Balenciaga his mentor and where he learned the beginnings of fashion design.
In 1961, he left Spain to join Antonio del Castillo as an couture assistant at Lanvin in Paris, France. This was his first real fashion job. Working here, he gained more needed experience in the fashion world. He became the first Dominican to design for a French couture house.
During his time in Paris he turned to Diana Vreeland, the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, for advice. He wanted to get into ready-to-wear designs of clothing because that was were the money was.
Vreeland and de la Renta became best of friends and she his greatest champion, and she advised him to go to Elizabeth Arden. She felt sure that Arden would promote him. She also told him if he remained in Paris, he would always be eclipsed by the fashion house, Christian Dior.
de la Renta took her advice and went to Elizabeth Arden in NYC and worked for her for two years. He then moved on to work for Jane Derby, an American fashion house. When Derby died in August 1965, de la Renta took over the label. It was at this time that he began his own signature ready-to-wear label.
His line of ready-to-wear clothing is of delicate silk prints, use of ruffles, soft silhouettes and vibrant colors. His fashions are styled for casual luxury as well as evening luxury. He designed modern but romantic looks. During his time in Spain, de la Renta studied the fashion of bullfighting matadors and flamenco dancers. This is from where his creation of soft ruffles cascading down his dresses and gowns comes. His flattering and feminine pieces have inspired women all around the world.
During his time in New York he also became internationally known and became one of the couturiers who designed for and dressed Jacqueline Kennedy. This catapulted him and his line of dresses to national and international fame. He quickly became an award winning designer and today his fashion house dresses leading figures, film stars and royalty. He quickly became an American fashion designer and powerhouse.
During the 1980s, de la Renta began his next phase of his career by becoming the designer to first ladies beginning with Nancy Reagan and following up with Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. All wore his fashions and Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush as first ladies wore his gowns to the Presidential inauguration balls.
His fashions are seen quite frequently on the red carpets of films, television, and music awards.
From 1993-2002, de la Renta designed a haute couture collection for the house of Balmain. By 2006, he diversified his label with bridal designs and bridal wear. He saw his brand spring onto international wholesale growth in 2003, under CEO Alex Bolen, and had stores ranging from five to seventy-five locations.
By 2008, de la Renta's fashion business grew by fifty percent and $150 million in sales. His success as a designer was seen on the runways and red carpets of the world.
Today, de la Renta ready-to-wear designs are available in his retail stores, online and with select wholesale department stores who partner with him world wide.
As other fashion designers have done, he launched his own fragrance, OSCAR, in 1977. He then followed up with an accessories line in 2001 and a home wares line in 2002.
He has designed one hundred home furnishings for Century Furniture featuring dining tables, upholstered chairs and couches.
In 2004, de la Renta added a less expensive line of clothing called O Oscar as he wanted to attract new customers whom he could not reach before. His bread and butter was earned as the couturier to socialites, the ladies who lunch bunch. He stayed relevant by becoming the "red carpet king," and with Hollywood glitz it defined him for a new age and a new customer.
de la Renta also designed Tortuga Bay, a boutique hotel, at Punta Cana Resort Club in 2006.
He has homes at Casa de Campo and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and a home in Kent, Connecticut. He has been married twice, to Francoise de Langland (1921-1983) until her death from cancer, and to Annette Engelhard (1989-2014) to whom he was married at the time of his death.
de la Renta and his wives entertained "salons" at his different homes and entertained the rich and famous from Norman Mailer to Henry Kissinger. Invitations to his "salons" were quite coveted.
He has several step-children with his two wives and an adopted son, some of whom work at Oscar de la Renta. He also leaves several step-grandchildren.
de la Renta was regarded as the unofficial ambassador of the Dominican Republic and even held a diplomatic passport from that country.
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Sadly, Oscar de la Renta was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. He passed away from the complications of cancer. He will be sorely missed on the fashion runways. His sense of style, beauty and sophistication were all part of the allure for being dressed in his dresses and gowns.
It is from Cristobal Balenciaga in Madrid that de la Renta got his sense of flourish of great flamenco flounce and ruffles which he designed into his dinner and evening dresses. And, he cut a bias of elegance of silk charmeuse in slim sheath dresses. He also cut black and white cashmere coats and one that his wife recently wore as her favorite of his coat designs.
Besides his fashion house he also had a deep appreciation of the arts, probably going back to his days of art school and painting in Madrid. He also became a tireless patron of the arts, and he served on the boards of the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and Channel Thirteen/WNET.
He supported several cultural institutions: New Yorkers for Children; America's Society and the Spanish Institute. He had an impeccable personal style with people, parties and fashion and he was an outstanding host on the NYC social register.
Now, who will continue the fashion house of Oscar de la Renta? Peter Copping, who is British born, will become the new Creative Director at the house of Oscar de la Renta. Along with his partner, Rambert Rigaud, they will continue to design with de la Renta's signature beauty, femininity and sophistication in his dresses and gowns.
For five decades, Oscar de la Renta has designed and created exquisite clothes that combined the essence of both the Old and New worlds. He will be missed.
Below are more photos of Oscar de la Renta's gorgeous dresses and gowns. If I had the figure and the money, I would wear any of these creations of his. All are very feminine and flatter the figure. There is nothing more beautiful than an Oscar de la Renta gown that brings out the beauty and loveliness of a woman.
Oscar de la Renta fashions can be found online at: www.oscardelarenta.com
Fashions from the House of Oscar de la Renta
Oscar de la Renta Spring/Summer 2015 collection
In remembrance of Oscar de la Renta
© 2014 Suzette Walker