Oscar de la Renta: The Fashion Legacy Continues!

By Mash Bonigala

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When I came across Nicole Phelps “Fall 2016 Ready-To-Wear  Oscar de la Renta” Feb. 17, 2016 on Runway a few months ago, I regretted not having done any article about this legendary American fashion designer and his labels before. More pressing tasks kept me busy until now, and finding some breather, I write this article as a tribute to that great fashion designer and his brand.

Nicole wrote: “In 1973, Oscar de la Renta was one of five American designers to go up against their Parisian counterparts at the Battle of Versailles. Princess Grace was in the anudience, and so was Andy Warhol.”

Many talented artistes are praised for their artistic talents when they are alive, creating great art. In fashion industry, there is a talent born every season of a year. Once a talent passes away, the next one creeps in to take their place and the old one is gradually forgotten.

However, very few people are fortunate enough to be remembered years after their demise. One of such fashion designers is Oscar de la Renta.

“I am immensely proud to have been chosen as the creative director of Oscar de la Renta,” is what Peter Copping, the new in charge of Oscar de la Renta, said on the occasion of Autumn-Winter –2015 Show.  He was also heard saying “In this, my first collection, I hope to honor Oscar’s legacy and also to start a new chapter for the house.”

Sarah Harris wrote in her write-up of the occasion that there could be no doubt that the former Nina Ricci designer (Peter Copping) would have been quaking in his boots backstage, such is the enormity of taking over from one of America’s greatest ever designers (Oscar de la Renta) ….(SOURCE)

In her article “At Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta, Dressing Up the Dresses”, Sept. 16, 2015, for Fashion & Style, New York Times, Vanessa Friedman wrote: ‘ Ultimately, though, … Mr. Copping is clearly trying to prove he can be all things to all Oscar-ites, but it isn’t necessary;…”

Yes, it isn’t necessary to try to make it look big because Oscar de la Renta, the man and his brand, has been huge all along.

When it comes to talking about some brands, it’s very difficult to separate the designer and the brand, and Oscar de la Renta is one of them. When you talk of the brand, the man is right there and when you talk of the man, the brand hovers right above.

Oscar Aristides Renta Fiallo:

1932 — Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

1951 — Moved to Madrid to study painting at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando

1956 — Drew clothes for newspapers and fashion houses for some extra money, and when Francesca Lodge, the wife of John Davis Lodge, the States Ambassador to Spain, saw his sketches, she hired Oscar to design a gown for her daughter. Oscar designed the debutante gown for Beatrice Cabot Lodge who showed off in that gown in Life Magazine

1957 — Worked as a fashion illustrator for the Madrid couture house of Cristobal Balenciaga

1961 — Moved to Paris to work as the assistant to Spanish-born couturier Antonio del Castillo at the house of Lanvin-Castillo

1963 — Moved to New York City and designed a couture collection. Elizabeth Arden (real name being Florence Nightingale Graham, the Canadian-American who owned a cosmetic empire and bred racehorses), at the suggestion of the then Vogue’s chief editor, Diana Vreeland, adorned an Oscar de la Renta

1964 — First appearance in Vogue

1965 — Joined designer Jane Derby as a partner, and soon after, took ownership of the label and the Oscar de la Renta house came into existence; launched his ready-to-wear label (he had known all along where the money in fashion industry was – in the ‘ready to wear’.)

1967 — Won the first Coty Award for his ‘Road of Spices’ collection

1968 — Received the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion

1969 — Given the American citizenship, but he maintained dual citizenship with the Dominican Republic

Throughout 1960s he was internationally hailed as one of the couturiers who dressed Jacqueline Kennedy, the wife of the 35th President of the United States of America, known famously for her high end lifestyle.

1973 — Served the first term as President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) till 1976; inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame; represented the United States as one of the five designers at the legendary Versailles fashion show

1974 — Attended his first White House State Dinner during the Ford Administration

1977 — Launched his first fragrance, OSCAR, that soon became the international bestseller; and dressed First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton for the second inaugural Ball, honouring her husband President Bill Clinton

1986 — Began the second term as President of the CFDA, continued till 1988

1988 — First Lady Nancy Reagan, the strenuously properly styled glamorous figure, wore Oscar de la Renta to accept her CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award

1989 — Received the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award

1992 — Joined Pierre Balmain and became the first American designer to head a French couture house, holding the position until 2002

1998 — Hilary Rodham Clinton wore an Oscar de la Renta velvet dress on the cover of Vogue.

1999 — Received the French Legion d’Honneur as Commander. (The Legion of Honneur is the highest decoration in France.)

2000 — Won the CFDA Womenswear Desginer of the Year Award, and in the same year received the Gold Medal of Bellas Artes from King Juan Carlos of Spain

2001 — Introduced accessories collection, which included handbags, belts, shoes and fashion jewelry

2004 — Opened his first flagship boutique on Madison Avenue in New York City; became the Chairman of Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York City; launched eyewear collection; and added a less expensive line of clothing called O Oscar. De la Renta said he wanted to attract new customers whom he could not reach before

(The character Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, wore Oscar de la Renta in Sex and the City, an American TV romantic sitcom.)

2005 — Dressed First Lady Laura Bush for the second swearing-in-ceremony and Inaugural Ball, honoring her husband President George W. Bush

2006 — Launched the bridal collection. In the same year, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at Parson’s 58th Annual Benefit and Fashion Show. He also designed Tortuga Bay, an award-winning boutique hotel in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

2007 — Co-received the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award

2008 — First Daughter, Jenna Bush, wore Oscar de la Renta to her wedding. In the same year, he opened international retail stores in Athens (Greece) and Madrid (Spain)

2010 — Oprah Winfrey wore an Oscar de la Renta to co-host the Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He conceived and led the “Balenciaga Spanish Master” exhibition at Queen Sofia Spanish institute in New York City

2012 — Launched a childrenswear collection & a home collection

2013 — First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton presented Oscar de la Renta the CFDA Founder’s Award given in honor of Eleanor Lambert. “Oscar de la Renta American Icon” was opened at Williams S. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas; Oscar also hit the headlines in January, 2013 for inviting John Galliano, the disgraced celeb, to be a designer-in-residence at his studio for three weeks. Nicole Phelps in her FEBRUARY 12, 2013 article for RUNWAY said: ‘Among the other clues that Galliano was in the house: The marcelled locks and deeply shaded, greasy eyes (one of four separate hair and makeup looks) were familiar from his Paris days. (http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/fall-2013-ready-to-wear/oscar-de-la-renta) In addition, Oscar completed his 50 years of designing in New York this year

2014 — 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 the other America’s First Ladies. In the same year, he received the Medal of Excellence from Carnegie Hall in New York City. He co-chaired the Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

Oscar de la Renta named Peter Copping as the Creative Director of Oscar de la Renta.

2014 — On October 20, Oscar de la Renta, 82, passed away at home in Connecticut surrounded by family and friends.

Philanthropy:

Oscar established La Casa del Nino for underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic in 1982. Today, the center serves more than 1500 children daily and is regarded as the most complete project of child assistance in the Dominican Republic.

Family Ties:

He had a soul as soft as the silk he used for his gowns for the high-end clientele. He adopted Moises de la Renta from an orphanage in the Dominican Republic in 1983, after the demise of his first wife Françoise de Langlade. However, he had a will as tough as the canvas he used for the collars and cuffs of his designs. When Moises showed signs of irresponsibility, he snubbed Moises from his $26 m will.

Very few iconic designers keep such strong and close-knitted family relationships as Oscar. He married Annette Engelhard in 1989 and accepted Annette’s three children from her previous marriage — Beatrice phelps, Eliza Bolen & Charles Reed. He appointed step-daughter Eliza Reed Bolen as the Vice President of Licensing, Oscar de la Renta, LLC, and his son-in-law, Alex Bolen, as the CEO.

He is always remembered for his feminine and elegant gowns which were worn by the likes of Jackie Onassis; Nancy Reagan; Audrey Hepburn; Hillary Clinton; Taylor Swift; Emma Watson; Amal Alamuddin Clooney, wife of George Clooney;  Amy Adam;, Penelope Cruz; and so on.

As a graphic designer, I love his logos: the simple O, broken at the start; the complete name signed; and the rest of them.

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