Iconic fashion designer Oscar de la Renta died on Monday, October 20th, at the age of 82. His designs were the choice of a lot of First Ladies and movie stars for decades.
His evening wear creations made him who he was – one of the most recognized names in fashion. His designs seemed to be everywhere, leading former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to joke once that de la Renta’s creations “have been to more award shows than Meryl Streep.”
The last big creation de la Renta did was Amal Alamuddin’s wedding dress, when she married famous actor George Clooney in Venice last month. His designs were also worn by the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush; by actresses Sarah Jessica Parker, Penelope Cruz and Anne Hathaway; and by royal figures such as Archduchess Maria of Austria and Queen Noor of Jordan.
De la Renta was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, and he appeared frail in recent months, most recently during his women’s wear show in September, and the fashion house he founded named a successor last week. He said that he is inspired by women every season. His strongest influences were his six sisters.
Oscar de la Renta was born in the Dominican Republic. He studied painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid before starting work in fashion houses in Spain, after which he worked for Cristóbal Balenciaga and Antonio del Castillo, before landing at Arden and Jane Derby. He took over the label in 1965, replacing the name with his own. He became internationally renowned during that period due to him dressing President John F. Kennedy’s wife, Jackie.
Oscar designed haute couture for the French house of Balmain for a decade, becoming the first American (he gained his citizenship in 1969) to serve as top designer for a French fashion house. De la Renta also launched his own lines of perfume and accessories.
Designer Diane von Furstenberg once said that he “makes a woman look like a woman, feel like a woman”: “He has that old-fashioned elegance, and yet he’s able to interpret it in such a modern way.”
One particular Fist Lady wasn’t a huge de la Renta fan. He had spoken critically of some of Michelle Obama’s fashion choices, so she avoided his designs. That, thankfully, changed less than two weeks ago, when the First Lady wore one of de la Renta’s cocktail dresses.
He married twice: to Françoise de Langlade in 1967 and Annette Engelhard in 1989. He had stepchildren and an adopted son.