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Oscar de la Renta

Designer, Other
( b. Jul 22, 1932 Santo Domingo, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - d. Oct 20, 2014 Kent, Connecticut, USA ) Male

Oscar de la Renta, the doyen of American fashion, whose career began in the 1950s in Franco's Spain and sprawled across the better living rooms of Paris and New York, was the last survivor of that generation of bold, all-seeing tastemakers.

The youngest of seven children and the only boy, he often recalled that he usually got what he wanted from his family. He finished high school in Santo Domingo, and although his father preferred that he join him in the insurance business, young Oscar persuaded his mother to send him to Madrid to study art.

Besotted by postwar Madrid and his new freedom, Mr. de la Renta was soon spending more time in the cafes and nightclubs, meeting flamenco dancers, than in class. As well, he acquired a "señorito" wardrobe, he told the writer Sarah Mower, which consisted of custom-made suits from the tailor Luis Lopez, high starched collars and a carnation of deepest red in his buttonhole. The $125 his father sent each month paid for fancy clothes and in a sense his broader education afoot in Spain.

For extra money, he drew clothes for newspapers and fashion houses. He later admitted that his drawings were not technically accomplished or original. Nonetheless, some of his sketches were seen by Francesca Lodge, the wife of John Davis Lodge, then the United States ambassador to Spain. In 1956, she asked Mr. de la Renta to design a coming-out dress for her daughter Beatrice. The dress and the debutante appeared on the cover of Life that fall.

He was soon working in the Madrid salon of Cristobal Balenciaga, perhaps the greatest couturier of that period. Mr. de la Renta's job was to sketch dresses to send to clients. Mr. de la Renta worked with Antonio del Castillo from 1961 to 1963, when he decided to try his luck in the United States. He joined Elizabeth Arden, which then produced a couture line.

In 1965, Mr. de la Renta left Arden to join the Seventh Avenue company of Jane Derby as partner and designer. Miss Derby retired shortly after, and Mr. de la Renta took over, with backing from Ben Shaw. The brand eventually grew to include fragrances, boutiques in the United States and abroad, and dozens of licenses.

Though ill with cancer intermittently for close to eight years, Mr. de la Renta was resilient. During that period his business grew by 50 percent, to $150 million in sales, as his name became linked to celebrity events like the Oscars. Amy Adams, Sarah Jessica Parker and Penélope Cruz were among the actresses who wore his dresses.

Determined to stay relevant, Mr. de la Renta achieved fame in two distinct realms: as a couturier to socialites -- the so-called ladies-who-lunch, his bread and butter -- and as a red-carpet king. He also dressed four American first ladies, but it was Hollywood glitz, rather than nice uptown clothes, that defined him for a new age and a new customer. Just as astutely, he embraced social media.

He was presented with Coty Awards, chosen by a jury of fashion editors, for having had the most significant influence on fashion in both 1967 and 1968. In 1973 he was named to the Coty Hall of Fame, and in 1989 he was given a lifetime achievement award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Source: The New York Times obituary

ProductionsDate of Productions
Say Goodnight Gracie
[Play, Solo, Comedy, Original]
  • Mr. Gorshin's clothing courtesy of Oscar de la Renta
Oct 10, 2002 - Aug 24, 2003
Swinging on a Star
[Musical, Revue, Original]
  • Original Gowns for "Starlight Supper Club" Created by Oscar de la Renta
Oct 22, 1995 - Jan 13, 1996
Find out where Oscar de la Renta and are credited together