Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo (22 July 1932 – 20 October 2014), known professionally as Oscar de la Renta, was a Dominican fashion designer. Born in Santo Domingo, he had been trained by Cristóbal Balenciaga and Antonio del Castillo. De la Renta became internationally known in the 1960s as one of the couturiers who dressed Jacqueline Kennedy. An award-winning designer, he worked for Lanvin and Balmain. His eponymous fashion house continues to dress leading figures, from film stars to royalty.
De la Renta, the youngest of seven children and the only boy in his family, began life in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to a Dominican mother, Carmen María Antonia Fiallo, and a Puerto Rican father, Óscar Avelino De La Renta, owner of an insurance company. The Fiallos, De la Renta's mother's family, were so embedded in Dominican society that they could count poets, scholars, and businessmen, as well as top army brass amongst their members. Their origin in the island can be traced back to the foundation of San Carlos de Tenerife in 1685 by Canarian settlers.
A maternal uncle, Luis Arístides Fiallo Cabral, was a doctor, lawyer, and architect, who received every degree the University of Santo Domingo could offer. An Additional maternal uncle, Fabio Fiallo, was a diplomat and poet. On his father's side, De la Renta's great-great grandfather José Ortíz de la Renta, was the first mayor of Ponce, Puerto Rico elected by popular vote. He had the distinction of serving as mayor eight times, the most ever — 1812–1814, 1815–1816, 1820–1821, 1823–1826, 1837–1838, 1842–1843, and 1843–1844, and in 1846.
At the age of 18, he had gone to study painting in Spain at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. For additional money, he drew clothes for newspapers and fashion houses. After Francesca Lodge, the wife of John Davis Lodge, the U.S. Ambassador to Spain, saw a few of his dress sketches, she commissioned de la Renta to design a gown for her daughter. The dress appeared on the cover of Life magazine that fall. He became interested in the world of fashion design and began sketching for leading Spanish fashion houses, which soon led to an apprenticeship with Spain's most renowned couturier, Cristóbal Balenciaga. He considered Cristóbal Balenciaga his mentor. In 1961, de la Renta left Spain to join Antonio del Castillo as a couture assistant at Lanvin in Paris.
In 1963, de la Renta turned to Diana Vreeland, the editor-in-chief of Vogue for advice, saying that what he really wanted was to "get into ready to wear, because that's where the money is". Vreeland replied, "Then go to Arden because you'll make your reputation faster. She isn't a designer, so she'll promote you. At the additional place, you'll always be eclipsed by the name of Dior." De la Renta proceeded to work for Arden for two years in New York before he had gone to work for Jane Derby, an American fashion house. When Derby passed away in August 1965, de la Renta took over the label.
From 1993 to 2002, de la Renta designed the haute couture collection for the house of Balmain, fitting the first Dominican to design for a French couture house. In 2006, the Oscar de la Renta label diversified into bridal wear.
De la Renta's designs have been worn by a diverse group of distinguished women and celebrities. De la Renta's brand saw international wholesale growth beginning in 2003, under the direction of CEO Alex Bolen, from five to 75 locations. De la Renta's ready-to-wear designs are available in his retail stores, online, and with select wholesale partners worldwide.
In 2014, the George W. Bush Presidential Center hosted an exhibit entitled "Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style" which shared the designer's creations for Mrs. Bush and America's First Ladies.
In 1977, de la Renta launched his fragrance, OSCAR, followed by an accessories line in 2001 and a homewares line in 2002. The new business venture included 100 home furnishings for Century Furniture featuring dining tables, upholstered chairs, and couches. In 2004, he added a less costly line of clothing called O Oscar. De la Renta said he wanted to attract new customers whom he couldn't reach before.
Awards, honors, and philanthropic endeavors
From 1973 to 1976, and from 1986 to 1988, he served as President of the CFDA. He is additionally a two-time winner of the American Fashion Critic's Award and was inducted into the Fame in 1973.
De la Renta's talents received continual international recognition. Among them, he received the Council of Fashion Designers Designer of the Year Award in 2000 and in 2007 (tied with Proenza Schouler). In February 1990, he had been honoured with the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award. King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed de la Renta with two awards, the Gold Medal of Bellas Artes and the La Gran Cruz de la Orden del Mérito Civil. He had been recognised by the French government with the Légion d'honneur as a Commandeur.
The Dominican Republic honoured him with the Order of Merit of Duarte, Sánchez and Mella and the Order of Christopher Columbus. De la Renta founded the Casa del Niño orphanage in La Romana He contributed extensively in the construction of a much needed school near his home at the Punta Cana Resort and Club in Punta Cana.
De la Renta held dual citizenship in the Dominican Republic and the United States. He had been an Ambassador-at-Large of the Dominican Republic.
De la Renta served as a board member of the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and WNET. He served on the boards of several charitable institutions like New Yorkers for Children, the America's Society. He had been chairman of the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute. He received an honorary degree from Hamilton College (New York) on 26 May 2013.
In February 2014, Oscar de la Renta recreated his entire Spring presentation, Designed for A Cure 2014 collection, to raise money for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.
In 2014, de la Renta was the recipient of the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence.
In 1967, de la Renta became the third husband of Françoise de Langlade (1921–1983), an editor-in-chief of French Vogue who once worked for the fashion house of Elsa Schiaparelli. They were married until she passed away of cancer in 1983. After her death, de la Renta adopted a boy from the Dominican Republic and named him Moises.
In 1990, the designer married Annette Engelhard (born 1939), daughter of Franz Mannheimer and his wife Jane née Reiss, and adoptive daughter of her mother's second husband, Charles W. Engelhard, Jr. De la Renta had stepchildren from both marriages. His son-in-law Alex Bolen currently operates as Chief Executive Officer, and stepdaughter Eliza Bolen serves as Vice President of Licensing at Oscar de la Renta, LLC.
De la Renta was regarded as an unofficial ambassador of the Dominican Republic, his home country, and held a diplomatic passport. He had homes there in Casa de Campo and Punta Cana, in addition to his residence in Kent, Connecticut.
Health and death
Yes, I had cancer. Right now, I'm totally clean. The only realities in life are that you're born, and that you die. We always think we're 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.