Happy Birthday

oscar de la renta
Associated Press

Happy Birthday, Oscar de la Renta, Prolific Couture Designer

July 22, 2010
by findingDulcinea Staff
Born in the Dominican Republic, Oscar de la Renta credits the island for inspiring his creative designs and use of bright color. The industry has changed since the iconic fashion designer began working in the 1950s, but his popularity continues.

Oscar de la Renta’s Early Days

Oscar de la Renta was born on July 22, 1932, in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. Initially, Oscar wanted to be a painter; he moved to Spain to study art at age 18, but was soon captivated by fashion. His first internship was with legendary designer Cristóbal Balenciaga.

In 1960, he left Spain to study couture under Antonio Castillo in Paris. He made his own sketches, but fully committed himself to studying the styles and processes of the masters. He began making a name for himself as a designer when he headed up Elizabeth Arden’s private clothing label in America. He chose to work with Arden because he was committed to designing “ready-to-wear” clothes.

De la Renta’s Notable Accomplishments

Two years after starting at Arden, de la Renta began his own label. The Oscar de la Renta label includes his ready-to-wear collection, the Pink Label, and perfume, luggage, a high-end sportswear line, and clothing for men.

When he was named head designer at Pierre Balmain in 1993, he became the first American to secure a top-level position at a French couture house. On this side of the pond, his distinctly American endeavors included designing dresses for former first ladies Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

He has served two terms as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and won numerous awards. He won the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990, and was named the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2000 and 2007. The CFDA also reports that de la Renta is an avid supporter of the arts, serving on the board of several organizations such as the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and New York’s Channel Thirteen/WNET.

The Rest of the Story

In a 2005 interview with New York magazine, de la Renta reflected, “You know, as I get older and I look back, I think that I have been probably working harder now than I’ve worked in my whole life.”

He iso at the forefront of New York’s exclusive social scene. Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue magazine, explained that he has the capacity to be many different people at once. “You can be having dinner with Oscar and the Clintons, and he’s a vivacious host who takes care of everything,” she said. “Then, after the meal, he’ll go back into the kitchen and play dominoes with everyone who prepared the meal.”

He was also one of the last designers to resist the temptation of corporate ownership. Instead, he’s made his son-in-law, Alex Bolen, the CEO of his design empire, New York magazine reports.

To top it all off, the wildly famous designer has put his success to good use as a philanthropist, helping to build a school and daycare center in the Dominican Republic.

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