words_kelly brody and megan mccrink. photo illustration_rori kotch.
“Who are you wearing” is a popular question asked on the red carpet. The response to that simple question can mean the world. Without a doubt, if you replied “Oscar de la Renta,” you could rest easy knowing you chose elegance, glamour and class. The Dominican (American nationalized) designer, who many celebrities, first ladies, and other high society members considered a dear friend, embodied a walking representation of the clothes he designed. Hollywood, the fashion world and the internet mourned the loss of De La Renta on Monday night when he passed away from an undisclosed form of cancer at the age of 82. Everyone from former First Lady Laura Bush to singer Taylor Swift took to social media to express their sadness for the loss of “The Gentleman of Fashion,” as model Naomi Campbell stated on Twitter.
De la Renta began his career in fashion at 17 while in school at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. In 1956, he began working under Spanish designer Crisobal Balenciaga after a photograph of a dress he designed for an American debutante ended up on the cover of Life magazine. He climbed the fashion ladder and then worked as a couture assistant under Antonio Castillo at Lanvin in Paris. He opened his own self-titled fashion line in 1965 after former Vogue Editor-in-Chief Diana Vreeland encouraged him to move to New York City to make a name for himself. De la Renta hit a career milestone in 1993 when he was named the head of French fashion house Balmain and made history as its first American head designer.
“I want to wear all black tomorrow to mourn, but Oscar loved color so that wouldn’t be what he would want,” Ayoub said.
Preferring light, luminous and vibrant color as opposed to humdrum black and neutrals, De La Renta incorporated his couture training into his ready-to-wear lines. Women lucky enough to wear his constructed yet elegant designs illuminated on the red carpet as well as events. All eyes would be on the “Oscar girl” of the evening. Some notable women who wore Oscar de la Renta included Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé and Gwyneth Paltrow. One of De La Renta’s last designs to grace the public eye included Amal Amaluddin Clooney’s wedding dress.
“My job as a designer is to make a woman feel her very best,” De La Renta once said.
Before De La Renta’s death, Peter Copping, the former head designer of Nina Ricci, took the position of creative director of De La Renta’s brand.
“It’s sad to see one of the Dominican greats pass,” senior Juan Bisono said. “…but I know his mark on the industry, as well as the world, will remain long after his passing.”