Flashback: Oscar de la Renta

20 October 2014

Oscar de la Renta, the Dominican-born US fashion designer, passed away at the age of 82 in New York, leaving behind 50 years of kaleidoscopic designs, which not only revealed the sought-after yet elusive femininity, but were also aimed at aesthetically higher aspirations that would ultimately transcend the generational style gap.

Despite being diagnosed with cancer in 2006, the designer continued to reinvent and shape the way women dress. That’s the reason why it is necessary to cast a light retrospectively on Oscar de la Renta’s major life events as well as his opulent creations.

From Sketches To Creation

He left his home country at the age of 19 to pursue studies in painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. Relentlessly working his way through studying and drawing clothes designs and sketches for Spanish newspapers and fashion houses, he went on to become an apprentice for Cristobal Balenciaga, Spain’s most famous fashion house. This constituted a turning point for the young and highly motivated man, who joined Antonio del Castillo as a couture assistant at Lanvin in Paris in 1961. From this moment on his career in fashion had enjoyed an exponential growth.
He left Lanvin for New York in 1963, where he collaborated with Elizabeth Arden and Jane Derby, the eponymous fashion labels, until 1965. After the death of Jane Derby he re-launched the label under his name. Several years later on Oscar de la Renta introduced his first fragrance Oscar (1977) followed by an accessory and home lines in 2001 and 2002 respectively. He created a bridal collection in 2006 and jewellery collaboration with Loulou de la Falaise in 2007.

His prodigious talent was equally revealed at the haute couture collections for Balmain from 1993 to 2002, where he held the demanding and challenging post of creative director, an unprecedented phenomenon as he was the first American designer to be in charge of a French fashion company.

Oscar de la Renta’s creations were, and still are, worn by some of the most influential women in the world – from first ladies to celebrities. The lucky A-listers include Jessica Alba, Sarah Jessica Parker, Anne Hathaway and Nicole Kidman. On the other hand, Oscar de la Renta is the style guru behind the distinctive looks of Jacqueline Kennedy(1960s) and Nancy Reagan (1980s). The designer provided the evening gowns for inaugural events for Hillary Clinton in 1997 and Laura Bush in 2005.

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Last but not least, among the designer’s greatest achievements is the presidency of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) from 1973 to 1976. He was the distinguished winner of the CFDA awards in 1990, 2000 and 2007. The French government and the Spanish king Juan Carlos of Spain recognised his invaluable contributions with the Légion d’honneur, the Gold Medal of Bellas Artes and the La Gran Cruz de la Orden del Mérito Civil.

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At present time Peter Copping, former Nina Ricci’s creative director and director of the womens-wear studio at Louis Vuitton, where he worked alongside Mark Jacobs, is appointed as a creative director at Oscar de la Renta and the considerable challenge for him will be to introduce his personal touch to Oscar de la Renta’s glamour yet preserve the dainty and unique tradition of the brand.

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