Legendary designer Oscar de la Renta, the couturier of the first ladies since Jacqueline Kennedy, and the red carpet king died on Monday, at the age of 82. His death was confirmed by his wife, Anette de la Renta, the cause being complications from a cancer diagnosed back in 2006.
“The only realities in life are that you are born, and that you die,” Mr. de la Renta said in “Fashion Talks” series in 2013. “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.”
And what a life he lived – born in the Dominican Republic, the only son of a large family with seven children, de la Renta’s love for the vibrant colors, the airy sleeves, the Turkish delight numbers that so appealed to his greatest champion, the editor Diana Vreeland, has its roots in this island. His name is linked to celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Penelope Cruz and recently Amal Alamuddin, George Clooney’s wife.
At the age of 18 he left for Spain to study at the Academy of San Fernando Madrid, embracing art only to discover very soon his greatest passion – fashion. He worked with Balenciaga, Spain’s more acclaimed designer and the next step was, of course, Paris, the fashion mecca of haute couture.
“My father had different aspirations for me than I had for myself,” he told the “Fashion Talks” audience. “If I ever told my father I would become a fashion designer, he would drop dead on the spot.“
Lanvin and Elizabeth Arden had the designer on board too, until 1965 when he launched his first “ready-to-wear” collection. It was the first step to a successful career, that expanded into fragrance and furniture as well.
“Never, ever confuse what happens on a runway with fashion,” Mr. de la Renta once said. “A runway is spectacle. It’s only fashion when a woman puts it on. Being well dressed hasn’t much to do with having good clothes. It’s a question of good balance and good common sense.”
He leaves behind his adopted son Moises and an empire. An empire that is in the hands of Peter Copping, that Oscar de la Renta recently confirmed to be the new creative director of the fashion house.