Oscar de la Renta: Photo courtesy of Vouge, Indigital
“Work hard, believe in yourself.”
–Oscar de la Renta
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize the scientific, economic, cultural, political, and social contributions of influential immigrants and refugees who’ve helped shape the vibrant tapestry of America. Today, we recognize Dominican-American designer, Oscar de la Renta.
Oscar de la Renta was born in the Dominican Republic on July 22, 1932. A brother to six sisters, he left the Caribbean to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Spain when he was 18 years old. Though his intrinsic passion was in abstract painting, his interests quickly pivoted to fashion design.
He soon landed an apprenticeship with well-known Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga. A penchant for illustration led to his first fashion show at just 29. Later, he left Spain to join Antonio Castillo as a couture assistant at the house of Lanvin in Paris. While he worked for many fashion houses throughout his career, his work on the haute couture collection made him the first Dominican to design for a French couture house. In 1963, he moved to New York to work for American design company Elizabeth Arden.
In 1967, de la Renta’s marriage to Vouge editor Francoise De Langlade put him in a position to meet some of the most reputable influencers in high fashion society, who started attending his shows, bringing him increased global attention. In 1971, de la Renta became a naturalized American citizen. His clothing line, known for refined silk prints, ruffles, and vibrancy quickly gained name recognition for its luxury-casual aesthetics. He later introduced his first perfume in 1977.
By the early 2000s, Oscar’s iconic designs were worn by Hollywood A-listers and American first ladies, including Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush. Today, the company that de la Renta started has expanded to include a bridal collection, fragrances, a home collection, and a complete range of accessories, including handbags, shoes, and jewelry.
De la Renta was president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 1973 to 1976 and 1986 to 1988. His appreciation for the arts led to him sitting on esteemed boards, including Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera. The Council of Fashion Designers of America has awarded him two Designer of the Year awards and a lifetime achievement award.
Oscar de la Renta died in 2014 at the age of 82.
Others we are celebrating in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month:
Franklin Chang-Díaz, astronaut/scientist from Costa Rica
Jorge Ramos, newscaster from Mexico
Carlos Santana, musician from Mexico
Sofia Vergara, actress from Colombia