During this time, Mr. de la Renta's business was becoming increasingly successful as his name became synonymous with some of the 'best dressed' on the red carpet. He was the go to designer for events such as the Oscars, his dresses famous for being so beautify elaborate, with a fairytale quality about them.
Mr. de la Renta's business has grown by 50% the last few years making his sales reach $150 Million. One of the biggest events of the year so far in the celebrity world, George Clooney's wedding, saw Mr. de la Renta's name attached once again, as Amal Alamuddin, George Clooney’s now wife wore a beautiful wedding gown that was made by Oscar de la Renta when she and Clooney wed in Venice.
Oscar de la Renta always had a timeless quality with each of his collections, with not an awards ceremony or red carpet moment go by without a star wearing one of his beautiful gowns. As well as his red carpet moments, he created incredibly beautiful ready to wear upscale clothes for those lucky enough to be able to buy them. In addition he stayed so relevant by dressing four American first ladies as well as embracing social media and keeping his collection updated for the more contemporary customer.
Mr. de la Renta had quite the life. When he was younger, to earn extra money he would draw clothes for newspapers and fashion houses. Speaking of his drawings, he said they weren’t original or technically accurate. However they were distinct enough to be discovered by Francesca Lodge, the wife of John Davis Lodge, who was the United States ambassador to Spain during that time. It was then (in 1956), she asked Mr. de la Renta to design a dress for her daughter Beatrice for her debutant appearance. It was the first real moment of notoriety for Mr. de la Renta as the dress, as well as the debutante appeared on the cover of 'Life' that Autumn.
This soon led to Mr. de la Renta working under arguably the best couturier of the time, Cristobal Balenciaga. Mr. de la Renta’s job was to sketch dresses to send to clients. Ready to move on from his, he asked Mr. Balenciaga to move him to the main studio in Paris, however he was told he had to wait another year as he wasn't ready.
Fired up with ambition and unable to wait, Mr. de la Renta headed to Paris and was instantly given a job at Christian Dior. However, still not ready to settle into another position without exploring further, the next day he visited Lanvin’s designer, Antonio del Castillo. Mr. de la Renta told the former fashion reporter for The Times, Bernadine Morris, “He loved me because I spoke Spanish, and he asked me if I could cut, drape and sew, and of course I said yes,” continuing, “He offered me a little more money than Dior, and I said I would start in two weeks. Then I went to a fashion school and asked the woman who ran it if she could teach me the years course in two weeks.”
The training clearly paid off and Mr. de la Renta was with Mr. Castillo for two years from 1961 to 1963 before deciding to try and see what the United States could offer. He moved to join Elizabeth Arden, which during that time produced a couture line.
In 1965, Mr. de la Renta left Elizabeth Arden and became a partner and designer at the Seventh Avenue company of Jane Derby. Soon after this, Miss Derby retired, and with the backing from Ben Shaw Mr. de la Renta took over. He helped the brand grow to include fragrances as well as boutiques in the United States as well as internationally.
Throughout this time, Mr. de la Renta was really making a name for himself and forming close friendships with the first ladies he dressed.
In 1993, was ready to make his debut as a couture designer. Mr. de la Renta showed his first collection in Paris for Pierre Balmain. In addition he showed his RTW collection in Paris from 1991-1992.
Mr. de la Renta has received several honors including the Coty Awards, which is given by a jury of fashion editors. It was awarded to him for having the most influence on fashion in 1967 and 1968. Coty Award then honored him in 1997 by entering him into the Coty Hall of Fame. Mr. de la Renta was then honored by the Counsil of Fashion Designers of America, the prestigious lifetime achievement award.
Mr. de la Renta knew only too well that what he did was a form of art. Knowing that what made his collections come to life were the women that wore it and what happened on the runway was something entirely different. He was once quoted as saying "Never, ever confuse what happens on a runway with fashion. A runway is spectacle. It’s only fashion when a woman puts it on. Being well dressed hasn’t much to do with having good clothes. It’s a question of good balance and good common sense.”
But what a spectacle his runway shows were. Mr. de la Renta certainly knew how to put on a wonderful show, and had such an interesting story to tell. He will be sorely missed. My thoughts go out to his family.