13.12.2015 - Katherine Koniecki




First Ladies have always held a special spot among the couturier's crop. Beyond the ranks, women in film have carved out another uncompromising corner that let glamour lead to pop culture. Each decade, in turn, has directed Oscar de la Renta desire into a whole new field.


Oscar de la Renta's home ground of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic may not have been the closest geographic route to couture though once his artistic target clicked, the path to Spain narrowed into a direct projected course. He kept his eye on the canvas at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid while training as an abstract painter in his early 20s. Like many insatiable greats, the transformative properties of canvas to couture and toile to gown struck an inspiration bolt and fashion took over the creator’s mind from there. He pursued an apprenticeship with Cristobal Balenciaga in Spain after which he moved to Paris to work at Lanvin under the direction of Antonio Castillo. It was a chance meeting with Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, an icon who had a great mentor-minded influence on many industry purveyors, which encouraged de la Renta to take the road to New York. Following her word, he joined the team at American label Elizabeth Arden. Two years into his American venture alongside his wife and French Vogue Editor, Francoise de Langlade, he jumped at the chance to pursue his own ready-to-wear label.


Known for his charisma and charming Dominican warmth, he appealed to women and women have fallen for Oscar like a spell. He adamantly expressed his foremost goal was to make women feel beautiful and 60s starlets have catapulted Oscar de la Renta’s high glamour report. Raquel Welch stepped out in a black Oscar de la Renta silk jumpsuit in 1969 and his 70s maxi skirt comeback stunned everyone as Liza Minnelli rolled out in a crepe de chine and chiffon sprawling gown. With couture still firmly under his belt, the resourceful designer saw no need to hold his vision back. The production of readymade Vogue patterns began to trickle down into the mass market and the extra do-it-yourself factor suddenly made his cuts accessible to all women. It wasn’t long before the Barbie boom had her decked in her own mini Oscar de la Renta creation. Dancer Twyla Tharp and the American Ballet Theatre also became closely connected to the man who was going beyond fashion as a cultural creator. Another stage opened up and the First Ladies of the Whitehouse adored Oscar too. He has dressed them all beginning with Jacqueline Kennedy to Michele Obama.


Adaptability was the theme for the 90s and Oscar de la Renta’s intuition caught on to the market demand as effortlessly as an eye blink. Power dressing boomed and the designer responded with an instant trim. Long sweeping gowns shed their length in seconds. His wedding gowns took the same route and eased into the decade’s crop as an off the shoulder mini dress and the wedding day look was completed with a tiny tulle veil in pink. By the early 90s, office wear hit an all time high and Oscar de la Renta’s separate suiting became the cash cow of the decade. The designer’s mass appeal and sharp sense for contemporary ready-to-wear never overtook the imaginative edge that led him to couture in the first place. Back in France in 1992, he embarked on a nine year collaborative partnership with Pierre Balmain, which struck his bohemian fantasy in the form of fur lined Russian ball gowns and they too eventually transformed into a ready-to-wear line by the name of Ivoire.


Oscar de la Renta’s namesake has always stood the revolutionary strength by which he defined the 21st century woman, one that is empowered and in full control of her destiny. Pairing T-shirts with ball gowns was not uncommon for the designer and his role as a purveyor of the American ready-to-wear jolt had seen his name spread a wide radius on everything from belts to furs. He became a maestro at mixing casual and luxury, denim with cashmere for the woman of the hour. His incessant passion for form and artistic pursuit continued to transform until the last years of his life. In 2012, he presented a cubist Picasso print, gaucho inspired collection that met the praise of his vision. Oscar de la Renta passed away in 2014 at the age of 82, leaving his privately owned business to the succession of British designer Peter Copping. It has been clear thus far that Oscar de la Renta’s new Creative Director is steadily following the brand constitution while making plans to push expansion into international quarters. Oscar de la Renta’s momentous presence remains fresh. These are deep shoes to fill, through the house that has been built by six decades of passion with not falter anytime soon.

Short Facts


Oscar de la Renta established his name at the frontier of couture and ready-to-wear. Combining both made him a leader in American casual luxury. A-line gowns, silk layers, elaborate ruffles and colour bursts wove throughout his collections. 


His ready-to-wear advancement soon saw an Oscar de la Renta label on swimwear, shoes, fur, sleepwear, handbags and kidswear. Despite the expansion, his name was never spread thin. His focus was always about empowering the 21st century woman and changing shapes to meet the market demands. 

Awards and Recognition

His work has harnessed a great deal of industry respect and Oscar de la Renta has served as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 1973 to 1976 and again from 1986 to 1988. During this time he created the prestigious CFDA Award.

In 1990 he won a CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award, a CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award in 2000. In 2007, he tied with Proenza Schouler for the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award.

Oscar´s last Show Spring Summer 2015


1932 - Dominican Born

Oscar Aristides Ortiz de la Renta is born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

1950 - Madrid Artistry

At 18 he leaves the Dominican Republic to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. It was during his abstract painting practice that he fell in love with couture through fashion drawing, which led him to do an apprenticeship with Cristobal Balenciaga.

1961 - Lanvin

He lands his first job at Lanvin in Paris.

1963 - Elizabeth Arden

The young couturier advances and heads to New York to work with the American fashion house Elizabeth Arden.

1965 - His Name

1967 - Love

Oscar de la Renta marries the Editor in Chief of French Vogue, Francoise de Langlade. Her connection to the industry influences the brand’s exposure among fashion buyers, press and a group of affluent socialites. The pair becomes a celebrity couple.

1973 - President

As a well respected designer, de la Renta serves as the President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 1973 to 1976. He takes on the position for a second term from 1986 to 1988.

1977 - First Scent

Following a successful few years under his label, Oscar de la Renta launches his first fragrance named Oscar.

1980 - First Ladies

De la Renta dresses First Lady Nancy Reagan, led by his First Lady outfit for Jacqueline Kennedy. He has since dressed Laura Bush, Hilary Clinton and Michele Obama.

1983 - Son

Following the tragic death of his wife, Oscar de la Renta adopts a son.

1990 - Remarriage

He remarries the well known socialite and Philanthropist, Annette Engelhard Reed.

1992 - Balmain

Oscar de la Renta begins a nine year collaboration with Pierre Balmain, during which time he introduces the ready-to-wear line named Ivoire. 

1993 - More Couture

Oscar de la Renta designs the haute couture collection for Balmain until 2003.

2002 - Furniture

The designer branches out and designs one hundred pieces for Century Furniture, a manufacturer of upholstered and wooden furniture.

2004 - Diffusion

He attempts to appeal to his younger customer base by launching a new line at a lower price point named O Oscar.

2006 - Bridal

Oscar de la Renta launches a bridal collection. 

2012 - Picasso

He extends his artistry with a Pablo Picasso print, gaucho inspired collection. The collection is met with much praise. 

2014 - Long Legacy

Oscar de la Renta passes away on October 20, 2014 in Kent, Connecticut. He names British designer, Peter Copping to take on the role of Creative Director. 

2015 - Succession

Peter Copping continues to design the ready-to-wear and bridal lines under the same house codes and has announced future plans to expand Oscar de la Renta brand stores into the Asian Market. 


© Oscar de la Renta


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