Oscar de la Renta
|Oscar de la Renta|
Óscar de la Renta at the Hotel Ritz, Madrid during a visit to Spain in 2008
|Born||Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo
July 22, 1932
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
|Died||October 20, 2014
Kent, Connecticut, U.S.
|Residence||Kent, Connecticut, U.S.|
|Education||Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando|
|Spouse(s)||Françoise de Langlade (m. 1967; wid. 1983)
Annette Engelhard (m. 1989; his death 2014)
|Children||Moisés de la Renta|
|Relatives||Fabio Fiallo (uncle)
Luis Arístides Fiallo (uncle)
Viriato Fiallo (cousin)
Larimar Fiallo (first cousin-twice removed)
José Ortíz de la Renta (great-great-grandfather)
|Awards||Order of Cristóbal Colón|
Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo (22 July 1932 – 20 October 2014), known professionally as Oscar de la Renta, was a Dominican American fashion designer. Born in Santo Domingo, he was 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, was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to a Dominican mother, Carmen María Antonia Fiallo, and a Puerto Rican father, Óscar Avelino Renta, owner of an insurance company in the Dominican Republic. 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 among 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. Another 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 19, he went to study painting in Spain at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. For extra 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 some 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 quickly 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 will make your reputation faster. She is not a designer, so she will promote you. At the other place, you will always be eclipsed by the name of Dior." De la Renta proceeded to work for Arden for two years in New York before he went to work for Jane Derby, an American fashion house. When Derby died 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, becoming 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 seventy-five 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 expensive line of clothing called O Oscar. De la Renta said he wanted to attract new customers whom he could not reach before.
Awards, honors, and philanthropic endeavors
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 was honored 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 was recognized by the French government with the Légion d'honneur as a Commandeur.
The Dominican Republic honored 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 served as a board member of the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and WNET. He served on the boards of several charitable institutions such as New Yorkers for Children, the America's Society. He was 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 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 died of cancer in 1983. After her death, de la Renta adopted a boy from the Dominican Republic and named him Moises.
In 1989, 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.
De la Renta was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. A year later, at the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), Executive Director Fern Mallis called him "The Sultan of Suave". At that event, he spoke of his cancer, saying:
Yes, I had cancer. Right now, I am totally clean. The only realities in life are that you are born, and that you die. We always think we are 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.
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