Oscar de la Renta is perhaps the most dashing presence in all of fashion. His breadth is of the renaissance sort — from the worldly pursuits of high culture, deeply committed philanthropy and politics (his participation has at times gone well beyond his high-profile, cross-party inaugural designs) to the personal pleasures of family, travel, entertaining and gardening. Yet, even after 40 years in the rag trade, de la Renta has no intention of giving in to the lure of retirement. In fact, with his business now a flourishing family affair and his designs attracting a new, young customer, he’s not even tempted.
WWD: Oscar, your business is hotter than ever. But after 40 years, do you ever think of retiring?
Oscar De la Renta: No. I have been doing this for so many years and in all the years I have been working, I have never had as good a time as I’m having now.
De la Renta: I think that, probably, a lot of things I should have been doing a long time ago, I’m doing now.
WWD: Such as?
De la Renta: Building retail stores, expanding my business. I always made a very good living out of my business, but now that I have Alex [Bolen, ceo and son-in-law] working with me, I look at it in a completely different way. The best thing that could have happened to me, besides having Eliza [Bolen, vice president of licensing and stepdaughter] come and work here, is having Alex come to the company. He gets mixed up with everything. He comes to the studio.
WWD: Does he get on your nerves in the studio?
De la Renta: Sometimes. Whenever he gets a little bit too much, I say, “Alex, Parsons School [of Design] is across the street and they have night classes.” But he’s great. And I have a great studio, very well organized. I love what I do. The business is doing fabulously well — the stores…all the stores I have opened in a very short time. You know, from having no stores for 39 years [to three in the past seven months] — this is much better.
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A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"