Acclaimed Fashion designer, Oscar de la Renta passed away on Monday, at his home in Kent, Connecticut, after a long battle with cancer. He was 82 years of age.
De la Renta was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to a Dominican mother of Spanish descent and a Puerto Rican father, in a family of doctors, diplomats and poets, and a great-great grandfather who was even the first mayor of Ponce.
At the age of 18, Oscar de la Renta went to Spain to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. It was here that he became interested in fashion design, and began sketching for leading Spanish fashion houses, leading to an apprenticeship with Spain’s most renowned couturier, Cristóbal Balenciaga, whom he considered as his mentor. He would leave Spain for Paris to join Antonio del Castillo as a couture assistant at Lanvin, before moving to New York to work with Elizabeth Arden, on the advice of Diana Vreeland, then editor-in-chief of Vogue. Oscar de la Renta worked for Arden for two years before leaving to work for Jane Derby. When Derby passed in August 1965, de la Renta took over the label.
“Every day you have to reinvent yourself.” —Oscar de la Renta
From 1993 to 2002, de la Renta designed the haute couture collection for Balmain, becoming the first Dominican to design for a French couture house. In 1977, the designer launched his fragrance, OSCAR, followed by an accessories line in 2001 and a homewares line in 2002. In 2006, the label launched bridal wear.
Oscar de la Renta is a two-time winner of the American Fashion Critic’s Award and was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame in 1973. He also received the Council of Fashion Designers Designer of the Year Award in 2000 & 2007, and received the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award in February 1990. Internationally, King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed the designer with the Gold Medal of Bellas Artes and the La Gran Cruz de la Orden del Mérito Civil, and was recognized by the French government with the Légion d’honneur as a Commandeur.
Oscar de la Renta was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. One year later, at the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), he spoke of the illness, 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.”