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Oscar de la Renta, was born in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic in 1932.
He became a well known fashion designer whose work helped define standards of stylish dressing among
U.S. first ladies, socialites and red-carpet celebrities during a career that spanned over 50 years.
Oscar De La Renta couture blue resin necklace from
the vintage jewellery collection at Modern Vintage Style
At 18 years old De La Renta left the Dominican Republic and began to study painting at the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, Spain. While there he began working as an illustrator for various fashion houses. This led to the post of assisting Spain’s leading fashion designer, Cristóbal Balenciaga. In 1961 de la Renta was living in Paris, where he worked as the assistant to Lanvin-Castillo’s head designer, Antonio del Castillo, before he moved to New York City in 1963. In New York he designed the couture and ready-to-wear collections for Elizabeth Arden. In 1965 he decided to establish his own company in New York.
New York Success
De la Renta’s fashion label soon came to represent casual effortless luxury to society women—many of them were friends of his then-wife, Françoise de Langlade, the editor of French Vogue—among whom he circulated with ease. He first gained attention towards the end of the 1960s and early ’70s for his gypsy and Russian-themed collections, which showed the cosmopolitan sophistication that would influence his creative work over the following years. These collections were always very modern, yet they also had a feminine, romantic quality, reflecting his grounding in both European couture and American sportswear. Consistent elements of his style include a strong colour palette, delicate silk prints, ruffles, and soft silhouettes. He is generally best known for his evening gowns and suits for women, which as the tears passed became wardrobe necessities for his large clientele of celebrities and socialites such as actresses Sarah Jessica Parker, and Penélope Cruz) and for previous first ladies Hilary Clinton, Jaqueline Kennedy and Nancy Reagan. Michelle Obama has also been seen wearing one of his gowns.
Although he became settled in New York, de la Renta also found a market for his work in Latin America, where his work became very fashionable. He remained active in his native Dominican Republic, where his involvement in charitable activities and achievements earned him the Juan Pablo Duarte Order of Merit and also the Order of Cristóbal Colón. Active in the American fashion world community, he was president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) from 1973 through to 1976 and from1986 to 1988. Then in 1990 the CFDA awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award. He became the first American designer to be given a major post at a French couture style house when in 1993 he became head designer at Pierre Balmain.
Fashion Empire, Bridal Dresses and Jewellery
Though de la Renta battled with cancer for the last eight years of his life, his fashion empire flourished. His business grew by 50 percent (to about $150 million sales) during the period of his illness, and he remained a much sought-after fashion designer. Among his last notable creations was the ivory tulle bridal dress worn by British-based lawyer Amal Alamuddin when she married actor George Clooney in 2014. De la Renta’s label also produced menswear,perfume, jewellery, and fine china.