Friday, August 20, 2010


Starting this week, one of my blog entries each week will feature one of my favorite designers (living or dead).    Oscar de la Renta is my number one, and not just because like me, he’s Dominican.

De la Renta was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1932.  At the age of 18, he left the island to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid.  While there, he became interested in fashion and began an apprenticeship with the most famous couturier in Spain – Cristóbal Balenciaga.  Soon after, he left Madrid for Paris, where he became a couture assistant at Lanvin.  In 1965, Oscar launched his own label.  His star has been on the rise ever since.

Oscar de la Renta has won many accolades for his designs:  Hall of Fame in 1973.   CFDA* Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990.  The CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award in 2000 and in 2007. 

From 1993 to 2002, Oscar de la Renta designed the haute couture collection of Pierre Balmain, becoming the first Dominican to design for a French couture house. 

In 1967, de la Renta married Frenchwoman Françoise de Langlade, an editor-in-chief at French Vogue.  She died in 1983.  In 1989, he married the American society woman Annette Reed.  Oscar has stepchildren from both marriages, and he is also the father of a child he adopted from an orphanage he founded in La Romana, Dominican Republic (La Casa del Niño). 

While Oscar might seem a little old fashioned to some of today’s younger couture customers, his fashions have been reliably chic, correct, and understated for over 30 years.  Heads of state, ladies who lunch, and aspiring socialites have all worn his clothing.  They are like a uniform for the well-dressed woman.  Like most modern designers, he has branched out considerably from his couture roots to ready-to-wear, accessories,  jewelry, fragrance, bridal, and fur.  He sits at the top of a fashion empire that no other Latin American designer has yet achieved.  

'Til next time.

*CFDA – Council of Fashion Designers of America

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