“The only realities in life are that you are born, and that you die. 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.”
Oscar de la Renta was a man known for his passion; not just his passion for fashion but his passion for people. He was a man who had philanthropic hobbies & had always been a strong voice in the world of fashion as well as in the world of women. Whether it was through his designs or through his words, you could always see so much heart & soul in the way that Oscar appreciated women.
Oscar de la Renta had very humble beginnings as he was born in the Dominican Republic & was the only boy out of seven children. Oscar had always had a love for art but it took some time for him to discover that fashion was his destiny. He first got noticed in fashion when he designed a dress for the daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Spain. The dress appeared on the cover of Life, causing him to switch his focus to fashion. In Spain, Oscar took on an apprenticeship with Cristóbal Balenciaga. Then in Paris, he worked under the house of Lanvin. Within two years Oscar decided to move to New York where he became a designer for Elizabeth Arden. By 1965, Oscar had fully launched his own ready-to-wear label.
In 1990 Oscar was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America which he had previously been President of for five years. Oscar had always been seen as an “American” designer. When they credit him he is known as one of the best “American” designers known to dress all of our First Ladies & celebrities alike. However, I feel like Oscar should be credited as a Latin designer. Sure, it may have been New York where he launched his line & found success but it was his island roots that inspired him. He was unmistakably a worldly person — Latin raised, European trained, & American made. However, I think it is unfair to both Oscar & to the Latino community to belittle his Dominican descent by labeling him as an American designer first. Truthfully, Oscar de la Renta is really the only iconic Latino designer thus far & I would love for people to appreciate him more in that aspect. He also is once noted to say that, “I am the only Third World designer.” His humble beginnings & small island roots was something that inspired him & that he thrived on. No one should be able to take that away for him.
Even if he is known as an “American” designer, Oscar de la Renta’s legacy will live on forever in the Dominican Republic. He was a compassionate man who had helped many charities in corners of the world. However, one of his most generous contributions was a gift to his island. Oscar helped build a school & day-care center in the Dominican Republic for 1,200 children where he adopted his son after his first wife had died from bone cancer. Coincidentally in his later years, Oscar was also diagnosed with cancer which is believed to have played part in his death even though he was deemed cancer free in 2013. Oscar was 82 years old as he passed & was surrounded by friends & family in his quiet home in Connecticut. Even though it was a big loss for the world of fashion, the de la Renta fashion house will still live on as Peter Copping has been appointed as the new creative director.
One of my favorite things to do as a little girl was steal my mom’s magazines. I loved reading them even though most people my age were reading Harry Potter & books of that sort. Instead of getting lost in the fantasy of dungeons & dragons I would get lost in the fantasy that lives within our reality — the fantasy of fame & fortune. I loved flipping through the gloss pages full of paparazzi pictures of celebrities & their glamorous lives. Award shows were always my favorite time because there was always a big spread on the best dressed. A name that forever lived through these numerous issues was Oscar de la Renta. His designs were the epitome of feminine beauty; elegant & eye-catching. His dresses were fit for princesses as well as women of power. There is no doubt that his pieces were a red carpet staple & everyone awaited for the moments that his work would parade through the awards show. I always dreamed of being able to float around in one of Oscar de la Renta’s pieces & to know the feeling of wearing such a powerful division of clothing.
So thank you Oscar. Thank you for what you have done for our world, for the Latin community, & for my childhood. For your designs allowed me to dream & romanticize over the ideas of fashion, power, & all the aspects of feminine beauty. Maybe one day I will be lucky enough to own a vintage de la Renta piece in your honor.