Oscar de la Renta was an Dominican-American fashion designer in 1932 . Born in Santo Domingo, he was trained by Cristóbal Balenciaga and Antonio Del Castillo. He became internationally known in the 1960s as one of the couturiers who dressed Jacqueline Kennedy. He worked for Lanvin and Balmain. His eponymous fashion house has boutiques around the world including in Harrods of London and Madison Avenue, New York.
Oscar De la Renta was born to, Dominican Republic, to a Dominican mother, Carmen María Antonia Fiallo, and a Puerto Rican father, Óscar Avelino De La Renta, owner of an insurance company. The Fiallos, De la Renta’s mother’s family, were so embedded in Dominican society that they could count poets, scholars, and businessmen, as well as top army brass among their members. Their origin in the island can be traced back to the foundation of San Carlos de Tenerife in 1685 by Canarian settlers. De la Renta was raised Catholic in a protective family. His mother died from complications of multiple sclerosis when he was 18.
He went to study painting in Spain at the age of at 18, at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. For extra money, he drew clothes for newspapers and fashion houses. After Francesca Lodge, the wife of John Davis Lodge, the U.S. Ambassador to Spain, saw some of his dress sketches, she commissioned de la Renta to design a gown for her daughter. The dress appeared on the cover of Life magazine that fall. He quickly became interested in the world of fashion design and began sketching for leading Spanish fashion houses, which soon led to an apprenticeship with Spain’s most renowned couturier, Cristóbal Balenciaga. He considered Cristóbal Balenciaga his mentor. In 1961, de la Renta left Spain to join Antonio Del Castillo as a couture assistant at Lanvin in Paris.
De la Renta turned to Diana Vreeland in 1963, the editor-in-chief of Vogue for advice, saying that what he really wanted was to “get into ready to wear, because that’s where the money is”. Vreeland replied, “Then go to Arden because you will make your reputation faster. She is not a designer, so she will promote you. At the other place, you will always be eclipsed by the name of Dior. De la Renta proceeded to work for Arden for two years in New York City before he went to work for Jane Derby, an American fashion house. When Derby died in August 1965, de la Renta took over the label.
From 1993 to 2002, de la Renta designed the haute couture collection for the house of Balmain, becoming the first Dominican to design for a French couture house. In 2006, the Oscar de la Renta label diversified into bridal wear.
De la Renta’s designs have been worn by a diverse group of distinguished women and celebrities. De la Renta’s brand saw international wholesale growth beginning in 2003, under the direction of CEO Alex Bolen, from five to seventy-five locations. De la Renta’s ready-to-wear designs are available in his retail stores, online, and with select wholesale partners worldwide.
In 2014, the George W. Bush Presidential Center hosted an exhibit entitled “Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style” which shared the designer’s creations for Mrs. Bush and America’s First Ladies.
Talking about the life of De la Renta was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. A year later at the CFDA “Fashion Talks” event, Executive Director Fern Mallis called him “The Sultan of Suave”. At that event, he spoke of his cancer, saying: Yes, I had cancer. Right now, I am totally clean. 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.
De la Renta died of complications from cancer on October 20, 2014, at his home in Kent, Connecticut, at the age of 82.
In 1977, de la Renta launched his fragrance, OSCAR, followed by an accessories line in 2001 and a homewares line in 2002. The new business venture included 100 home furnishings for Century Furniture featuring dining tables, upholstered chairs, and couches. In 2004, he added a less expensive line of clothing called O Oscar. De la Renta said he wanted to attract new customers whom he could not reach before.
In 2006, de la Renta designed Tortuga Bay, a boutique hotel at Puntacana Resort and Club. The hotel is part of the luxury hotel collection, The Leading Hotels of the World.
In 1967 and 1968, de la Renta won the Coty Award (the U.S. fashion industry “Oscars”) and in 1973 was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame.
From 1973 to 1976, and from 1986 to 1988, he served as President of the CFDA. He is also a two-time winner of the American Fashion Critic’s Award and was inducted into the Fame in 1973.
De la Renta’s talents received continual international recognition. Among them, he received the Council of Fashion Designers Designer of the Year Award in 2000 and in 2007 (tied with Proenza Schouler). In February 1990, he was honored with the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award. King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed de la Renta with two awards, the Gold Medal of Bellas Artes and the La Gran Cruz de la Orden Del Mérito Civil. He was recognized by the French government with the Légion d’honneur as a Commandeur.
Oscar de la Renta was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1973.
The Dominican Republic honored him with the Order of Merit of Duarte, Sánchez and Mella and the Order of Christopher Columbus. De la Renta founded the Casa Del Niño orphanage in La Romana .He contributed extensively in the construction of a much needed school near his home at the Punta Cana Resort and Club in Punta Cana.
De la Renta held dual citizenship in the Dominican Republic and the United States. He was an Ambassador-at-Large of the Dominican Republic.
De la Renta served as a board member of the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and WNET. He served on the boards of several charitable institutions such as New Yorkers for Children, the America’s Society. He was chairman of the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute. He received an honorary degree from Hamilton College (New York) on 26 May 2013.
In February 2014, Oscar de la Renta recreated his entire spring presentation, Designed for A Cure 2014 collection, to raise money for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.
In 2014, de la Renta was the recipient of the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence.