OSCAR’S VIEW: There wasn’t a bare lightbulb or aluminum chair, but Oscar de la Renta’s appearance on “The View” Monday might as well have been an inquisition.
The designer’s aim was to quell the firestorm caused by his criticism — first reported by WWD — of First Lady Michelle Obama for wearing an Azzedine Alaïa sweater to meet Queen Elizabeth II. This time around, de la Renta was more repentant, telling Barbara Walters and the rest of ABC’s feminine fivesome, “She’s entitled to wear anything she wants to. I may have chosen my words badly, and I regret it.”
This story first appeared in the April 14, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The charismatic designer repeatedly praised the First Lady’s good looks and resounding popularity. When Walters pressed him with, “Are you jealous?” de la Renta responded with his signature élan. “Of course I’m jealous. Listen, to dress the First Lady is a tremendous privilege. I’m jealous if I’m not dressing every single woman,” he said.
Well aware that America is in the midst of a new beginning, the designer said, “Not jealous — really jealous.”
De la Renta was equally good-hearted about his take on Michelle momentarily wrapping an arm around the Queen’s lower back, describing it as an “unbelievably friendly gesture.” He even made fun of his own hands-happy Latin tendencies.
But on a more serious note, the designer said the U.S. apparel industry, which employs a lot of people, “is going through a very difficult time, and Mrs. Obama has a tremendous opportunity to really represent American fashion. What I probably tried to say was that our industry is suffering — there’s no question,” he said. “…There is a great opportunity for her because she has such high visibility.”
Needless to say, de la Renta admitted he would welcome the chance to dress the First Lady, just as he has Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush. Ditto for Whoopi Goldberg, who chimed in with a personal request, but then begged off, insisting she needs to lose a few inches first. “No, no, no, there is so much back there, Mr. de la Renta. There is so much material.”
Without missing a beat, the designer countered, “I will do the front then.”