Oscar de la Renta: The designer of the stars

Oscar de la Renta dressed Hollywood stars, celebrities and first ladies. The designer would have turned 90 today – a look back.

Oscar de la Renta, one of the most influential fashion designers of the last century, would have turned 90 on July 22nd. Hollywood stars, celebrities and first ladies were among his clientele. His luxury fashion was popular at the big events, such as the Oscars or the Golden Globes, but also at dream weddings in the finest circles. And it still is today as Oscar de la Renta’s legacy continues. But first things first:

Oscar de la Renta was born Oscar Aristides Ortiz de la Renta Fiallo on July 22, 1932 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. His family was wealthy and his father wanted his son to join the family insurance business. But Oscar felt drawn to art early on, and he was particularly drawn to painting.

Career starts in Madrid

At the age of 18 he emigrated to Spain to study painting in Madrid. Soon a great interest in women’s fashion crystallized and he tried to gain a foothold in this area. In 1957 he managed to get hired in the Madrid studio of the famous Spanish fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. He later said of his time there that it was the best fashion school for him. De la Renta was able to quickly demonstrate his talent for cuts, materials and colors and soon began receiving offers from other fashion houses. In 1960 he went to Paris to work for Lanvin. He retained the Balenciaga style he had learned in Paris and at his other stations.

From Spain to New York: De la Renta pursues a career in the USA

In 1963 he moved to New York, where he worked for Elizabeth Arden and Jane Derby, among others. It was a logical step to create his own brand, Oscar de la Renta, which took place in 1967. He quickly became famous in the USA, well-known women wore his fashion – including five First Ladies of the USA: Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Michelle Obama. Even today, his high-priced, feminine creations are appreciated by women all over the world. Eight years after de la Renta’s death, evening dresses in particular are still among the most popular models among celebrities.

Twice, from 1973 to 1976 and from 1987 to 1989, de la Renta was president of the American fashion association CFDA. In the late 1980s, his company was valued at half a billion US dollars. In 1992 he was appointed artistic director of the Paris fashion house Balmain, which he left in 2002, two years before it went bankrupt. Along the way, de la Renta expanded his own company to include the secondary line Oscar by Oscar de la Renta (1995), designer furniture (2002), bridal wear (2004) and the O Oscar line.

Still relevant after his death

In 1967, Oscar de la Renta married Françoise de Langlade (1921-1983), editor of French “Vogue”. After her death, he adopted a son from the Dominican Republic, Moisés, in 1984. In his second marriage, he married the designer Annette Reed (82) in 1989. He had stepchildren from both marriages. Since 1969 de la Renta was also a US citizen.

De la Renta died on October 20, 2014 at his home in Kent, Connecticut, at the age of 82 from complications from cancer that was diagnosed in 2006. However, his work will not be forgotten. De la Renta himself appointed Peter Copping as the new creative director before his death, and since 2016 Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia have continued the legendary designer’s great legacy by basing their own style on the fashion heritage of the founder.

After his death, the company retained its big name, but returned to its roots, women’s fashion. Today, the house’s fashion is sold exclusively under the Oscar de la Renta name for women and children. Women’s fashion is presented on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week.

Stars like Penélope Cruz and Amal Clooney love his fashion

De la Renta’s fashion belongs to the luxury segment and is worn on all major occasions, such as the annual Oscars. In 2022, for example, comedian Amy Schumer walked the red carpet in a gown by the designer. Hollywood stars like Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba and Sarah Jessica Parker are also often seen in de la Renta. Talk queen Oprah Winfrey and singer Gloria Estefan also love his fashion. Attorney Amal Clooney wore an Oscar de la Renta dream – one of his last major personal works – to her wedding to George Clooney in 2014.

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