John B. Fairchild: “Mr. Charm. He was full of kindness, which led to very successful fashions. He never stopped working and was always around to help everybody. I first met him when he was still at Lanvin picking up pins in Paris and his charm was every place. He was a great fighter up to the very end because he loved life and loved people so much.”
First Lady Michelle Obama: “Oscar de la Renta was a pioneer and a visionary who helped generations of women embrace their most beautiful, confident selves. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
This story first appeared in the October 22, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Laura Bush: “Oscar is the loveliest man. He really likes women and I think that shows in the clothes that he makes for women. Oscar and I talked about what to do for the inauguration. The white suit was perfect. It just looked like the snow that was covering the mall that day. It was so perfect. Oscar made a beautiful sparkling dress that I wore to the Polish state dinner and then I sent a photograph of George and me standing on the front porch of the White House and said, ‘Thanks for a sparkling evening.’ You can wear Oscar’s clothes over and over, and I have. He made this beautiful gray suit for me to wear to Japan on the first trip that George and I took after George was President. Then that is the very same cashmere suit and coat that I wore to the Obamas’ inauguration. And it’s not in this show because I didn’t give it to the archives yet. It’s still in my closet and I plan to wear it again.
For five decades, Oscar de la Renta has made dresses that make women feel good and look beautiful.”
Jeffry Aronsson, ceo of Oscar de la Renta from 1993 to 2003, saw the business side of the designer first hand.
“I would try out an idea on him, business ideas, and what I found remarkable is that his creativity went beyond the design studio,” Aronsson said. “He would readily debate it and take what I thought was a good idea and turn it into a great idea. And then he would say, OK, go on and execute. And he was a wonderful partner in the execution.”
Aronsson said the two also developed a rapport as negotiating partners.
“If I felt that he’d said enough, I would go on and kick him under the table,” said Aronsson, who would then make his own points. “I’d kick him again and he’d deliver the knockout punch. I’d do the jabbing and he’d deliver the knockout punch.”
Ralph Lauren: “I always loved him. He was a very sweet guy. I was always very fond of him. We sort of grew up together. We spent time over the years talking to each other at events and we promised to have dinner together. We never got to do it. As an American designer, he’s one of the greatest. He brought a great deal of class to American fashion and the way he handled himself. He had great class, great style and he was a gentleman. He had a great sense of personal style and he knew what was appropriate for President’s wives and the people he designed for. He was a very unique man in the history of American fashion, both for his workmanship and talent, as well as his creativity and class.”
Sarah Jessica Parker: “Knowing that sadly, none of us will have more time with the beloved and resplendent Oscar de la Renta, only enhances my exuberant appreciation of the time he gave, the talent he shared and the friendship he allowed.”
Reese Witherspoon: “He was such a lovely man and he really was an architect and he knew how to make women feel beautiful. Every time I’ve worn anything he ever made I’ve felt beautiful. He celebrated women you can just tell he loved women. It comes through in his construction and love of color.”
Giorgio Armani: “I have always had great respect and admiration for Oscar de la Renta, a man who proved that you can become a protagonist in the history of a country through fashion. Because he dressed with elegance and perfect sense of the occasion all the First Ladies, from Jacqueline Kennedy to Hillary Clinton, confirming his special touch for evening gowns, which mitigated the observance of the institutions with a sophisticated accent of seduction.”
Anna Wintour: “There is much being said that his passing yesterday marks the end of an era. Not true. He was the most democratic man I knew and he would have lived happily and defined any era. He was happy dining with the rich and famous, for sure, but equally happy playing dominoes with his devoted staff. His designs reflected his extraordinary personality: optimistic, fun, sunny, romantic. At dinner this summer — just the two of us — he told fascinating stories about his life in Paris and later working for Miss Arden who apparently always called Helena Rubinstein ‘that woman.’ The conversation became more serious and he told me he felt he had had the most amazing life and he was not afraid. This strength must have been with him in the hospital last week when he made the decision to turn off treatment; it was not the quality of life he wanted.…
“He always said accept your friends for who they are, not for who you want them to be. Oscar was everything you could want a friend to be. Annette was his perfect partner, creating those magical houses and gardens together, giving extraordinary seemingly effortless dinners, and always taking care of each other. She slept on a cot in the hospital every night he was there. Theirs was the greatest, most life-enhancing love affair. Last week in the hospital he said that she never wears the beautiful jewelry he gave her, and she said simply, ‘I have you.’”
Karl Lagerfeld: I knew Oscar better later when he was in New York than in his Paris days with Balmain. He was very handsome, with a perfect Latin-lover look. In this business, very few have the charisma and the class of Oscar. That was also a reason why he was liked and loved by everybody. He will be missed, but I think with the new designer [Peter Copping], the house of de la Renta is in the right hands. This makes me very sad. The last time I had dinner with him and Annette at the MoMA we had so much fun that Anna told us we were too noisy. So my last memory is a happy one.”
Patrick McCarthy: “Once I asked Oscar what he thought each of his parents had contributed to his upbringing. His father, an insurance man I think, gave him the ability to ‘talk to everyone.’ And, of course, he did ‹ talk to everyone. Whether it was an intern at WWD, or Diana Vreeland, they both walked away from an encounter with Oscar with the feeling that she was the most important person in the world.
His mother, Oscar said, was more savvy. She imparted an ability to judge a situation both on its merits and its meaning. ‘My mother was shrewd,’ is how I remember he put it.
And Oscar was equally parts charm and smart. There is no other way to explain how he went from second-string at Balenciaga’s Madrid atelier (first-string was Paris) to operating in a business that competes with Marc Jacobs, Nicolas Ghesquière and Raf Simons. There were stumbles, businesswise and creatively, of course, but the number of icons Oscar saw on to the field, and then off is staggering. He was cultivated, imposing and generous. And fun. A lunch, or dinner, with Oscar was something to be relished, not dreaded, as is so often the case in the fashion business.
Oscar never seemed to lose his way, as so many designers do. There was always pressure to do this and to do that, but Oscar was always shrewder than his friends, or his critics, were. He started out, and ended, exactly where he wanted to be.”
Carolina Herrera: “The fashion world is going to miss him because he was always there for everyone. And loved by a lot of people. He was a great person Oscar, and also so generous helping everyone and with his time. It’s easy to help with charities by giving money away but he also helped with his time.
“Every time we went to Punta Cana, he would have the trio there and everyone wound up singing. Sometimes he sang with Julio Iglesias and sometimes he sang alone. He was a real friend, a very loyal friend and Annette and Oscar were a great couple. Oscar helped a lot of people and he treated people the same way. He played dominoes every afternoon with his staff in Punta Cana for instance. He treated everyone equally, perfectly the same and that’s a charming way to do things. We never saw each other like that [as competitors.] We were really close friends and on top of that we never discussed any business together. It was another relationship and that was fun. Everything he did, he did well. He played tennis fantastically, and bridge, everything he tried to do, he did it in the best way.”
Monique Lhuillier: “What really stood out is not just his career, but that he was such a gentleman, and even if he’s gone his legend will live forever and his work will continue to be alive. He made women feel beautiful and confident, and that’s something that I use too when I design.”
Reed Krakoff: “It’s hard to think of something that hasn’t been said. He’s someone who really symbolized American fashion and the best of people that work in this business. He was always someone who handled things in an incredibly gracious way. He’s done everything, he’s dressed everyone. I remember asking him what excited him and he said coming to work every day. It was a few years ago, I think he was 78 or 79, and I remember going home and thinking, ‘If I can accomplish that, that’s really what we all look for.’ It was really inspiring.”
Lubov Azria: “Yesterday when I heard I was shocked. I guess because he’s so private that I never even knew he was not well. Oscar de la Renta truly dressed a lady. Not just a woman, but a lady. There’s a difference.”
Etta Froio: “Oscar de la Renta had it all, fame, talent, good looks, charm, social status, a thriving business, a loving family and a delightfully wicked sense of humor. He also had many very commendable attributes. Oscar was a loyal, caring friend. He was generous, kind, loving and delightful to be with. He was a treasure I will sorely miss.”
Valentino Garavani: “I have lost not just an amazing colleague but a dear friend. We were born the same year, started to work at the same time, and shared the love for beauty and femininity. If sometimes there was competition between us it was like the one of two pilots of the same team, and never as opponents. How could one be against this sweet, gentle man? When I last saw him in late August in Greece he saved me when the host asked me to sing. He took the microphone from my hands and sang with his perfect voice a couple of Spanish songs! Six weeks ago only…Thank you Oscar to have been a good friend for so many years. I will miss you.”
Diane von Furstenberg: “Oscar was an extraordinary designer, an artist of life and beauty and a true Renaissance man. He had an amazing sense of aesthetics and it [resonated] in his clothes, his houses, his gardens. He was one of the greatest American designer, with Latin roots and European training. He loved to sing and his voice will continue to sing in our hearts forever.”
Francisco Costa: “I’m really upset. I started my career with him and worked there six years. He taught me a lot. It was always very family-like. It’s very tender to think that he left in such a way. We are going to miss him. He was a father to me in a way. He really embraced everyone in the studio, not just me. I’m sorry I didn’t get to spend more time with him. He was a man of beauty. He surrounded himself with beauty; he surrounded himself with the best. I don’t think there’s another person today who understands living, the sort of fine line between old and new, in a sense. He embraced the sensibility of the old with the great style of how we live today.
“He lived, full-on. Everything was important to him. The scent, the color, the way he set a table, the way he entertained, the way he greeted people. Also his kindness, his charity. With kids, schools, he always gave back. I also love the fact that he was a fighter. Oscar had a fantastic sense of humor. He could be quite tough. Not mean, but quite twisted. Which is wonderful to think that he still had that sense of humor. He could fight and instigate. He was that kind of man. I was very pleased to have been part of his world.”
Donna Karan: “When I think of a fashion designer, I think of Oscar de la Renta. He was iconic. Look at the women he had around him. He dressed every President’s wife, regardless of being a Democrat or Republican. It was all about the woman. Oscar was a woman’s man. There isn’t any woman who did not adore Oscar. I think everybody had a crush on him.
“I’d travel on the elevator with him because we were in the same building. Regardless of his state [of health] he was always so dignified. He was always coming to work. To him it was life. He was a role model. He ate and drank the world of fashion, but it wasn’t fashion, it was life. I looked up to him. He was ageless and fully experienced and he was naughty. He was this proper guy who was really naughty. He showed in Europe at the couture. He set the path for so many of us. I can’t think of anybody who can fill his shoes.”
She originally met Oscar de la Renta when they were showing at the “Battle of Versailles” in 1973, and she was there for Anne Klein, along with de la Renta, Bill Blass, Halston and Stephen Burrows. It was her first introduction to the grandeur of fashion “and Oscar was certainly in the lead on that, and continued to be.
“He was a mentor and role model, and I looked up to Oscar,” she said. The second time she met de la Renta they both appeared together on the Barbara Walters show, and “it was the funniest and most frightening experience I ever had. To me, Oscar was behind every great woman. There’s not a woman’s life that he didn’t touch. He was beyond a husband, friend, visionary and philanthropist. I always saw him as the ‘man of fashion,’ sort of like an icon and president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.”
Steven Kolb: “There would be no CFDA today if it wasn’t for Oscar. He served as the president of CFDA twice, in the Seventies and the Eighties, and in both instances his attention to the industry and what he felt very strong about, is that American designers often in the history of global fashion may have not gained or gotten the same level of accolades or respect than that of their international counterparts, and Oscar was always wanting to elevate and make certain that American fashion was at that level of respect. He started the CFDA fashion awards, he won four of them, and look, personally he was a board member up to the end. He was the kind of guy where I’d get a phone call, ‘Oscar would like to speak to you,’ and I never knew where it was going. He was very opinionated and many times if there was something he read or heard about that we were working on and he didn’t like it, he would let me know. He was like that right up to the end. I would rather have someone who’s engaged and part of an organization contribute and participate than just be passive. President, board member, member, he was that guy. What he did to build this organization, it wouldn’t be this without him.”
Dominican Republic First Lady Candida Montilla: “With [Oscar] de la Renta’s death, the country not only lost a brilliant professional, but essentially a great human being of matchless worth. He left behind a legion of blessings and solidarity which should resonate with the sensibility and pride of all Dominicans.”
Michael Kors: “I was at a dinner here in New York just a few years back and had the pleasure of sitting with Oscar. And despite his health issues, he kept stressing to me that he still felt like a kid—was still learning, still curious. And then he told me that if you rest, you rust. He led a life full of passion, for the people he loved, for fashion and for making things beautiful.”
Donatella Versace: “Oscar de la Renta was American fashion royalty. He will never be forgotten for his talent and generous heart. He was a true gentleman.”
Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Oscar de la Renta. His singular talent and exquisite taste elevated American fashion, and his warmth and friendship will be missed by our family and all whose lives he touched in his extraordinary journey.
Oscar’s remarkable eye was matched only by his generous heart. His legacy of philanthropy extended from children in his home country who now have access to education and health care, to some of New York’s finest artists whose creativity has been sustained through his support.
We will always be grateful to Oscar for the love he showed us, and for sharing his talent on some of the most important occasions of our lives. And we will never forget the joy, adventure, and beauty we shared with Oscar, his beloved wife, Annette, and their family during our many happy times together, especially those spent in his beloved Dominican Republic. We join his family and many friends and admirers all over the world in mourning his loss, while also celebrating his beautiful and joyous life.”
Henry Kissinger: “Oscar de la Renta brought beauty and elegance to our society, and to Nancy and me, warmth, friendship and meaning into our lives.”
Karen Katz: “I was recently at an Oscar de la Renta retrospective at the Bush Presidential library here in Dallas where an intimate dinner was hosted by President and Mrs. George W. Bush. And although everyone missed Oscar’s presence, we were surrounded by his designs from the decades. It reminded me that Oscar always knew how to make women feel modern, chic, and beautiful . It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Barbara Walters: “Oscar de la Renta was not just a creative and original artist he was also a great business man. He was most of all one of the wisest, kindest, and funniest friends you can have. All of us who had the pleasure of knowing him, have aching hearts today. Our thoughts are with his beloved Annette.”
Tommy Hilfiger: “He was a true gentleman. He was extraordinary, and was not only incredibly talented as a designer, but as a humanitarian and as a true gentleman with class and taste like no other. He was an inspiration to all.
“Everyone looked up to Oscar as a kingpin of American fashion. I looked up to him. He handled himself so well and was such an incredible gentleman, and at the same time, he had class and taste.
“He was inspirational to me as an American fashion designer and a legend in his own time. I think he put a real stamp on American glamour and made it authentic and legitimate.”
Adam Lippes: “I was in my first job at Ralph Lauren in 1995, and after 10 months my boss Electra Preston went to work for Oscar de la Renta and she told me, ‘You need to come, too.’ So I went at 22 and I really grew up there in the really classic sense of the word, learning about not only design, but also learning about life from inarguably one of the greatest fashion designers of all time. Oscar was a man so full of life, so wanting to learn, so willing to teach and just so, so damn smart and open. Oscar would never talk to you about fashion, ever. You did not talk about clothes with Oscar. You talked about politics, you talked about culture, you talked about faith. He was just one of these people who was very, very rare. We use the word ‘star’ so often, oh he’s a star, she’s a star. But there are very few stars who really command a room. And he was one of those magical people. We used to always joke that he should run for president of the Dominican Republic. When I told him I wanted to start my own brand, he was so supportive. He actually was one of my first investors. He said, ‘Well, you can work here until you get off the ground.’ And I left in between 2004 and 2005 but remained so close to him. No one has had so a big an impact on me except my family, not only in what I design but also in who I am.
It was always about life — eyes open wide. He taught me so much about how to live my life — open, giving and so full of life. We would travel a lot doing charity fashion shows and other events. I would be exhausted and he would say, ‘You can sleep when you die.’ And that’s how he lived.”
Ken Downing: “Our customers at Neiman Marcus loved Oscar. When they met him they fell in love with him. It’s not often you meet someone with such an enormous reach and he had that reach for decades. I’m so fortunate that I’ve known Peter [Copping] for some time well and his love of women and femininity is more about pretty not peculiar. It’s something that Oscar always felt so strongly about. Peter has a great charm to him, a different charm than Oscar, but our customers who met him when he was at Nina Ricci immediately fell in love with him. At the end of the day it is really about women and the customer and I believe the legacy Oscar put in place will be carried on in his hands because he has that same charm and love of women.
What was amazing about Oscar is that he understood how to live a good life and giving back in so many ways and beyond his enormous talent and craft for creating beautiful clothes for women it gave them great confidence and made them as gorgeous as they possibly could be. He was a gentleman who understood that his gifts were best when he did give back. He was such a gracious gentleman in a world where, often, gracious gentlemen don’t exist. His ability to charm everyone he met continued throughout his entire career. He made you feel like you were the most important person he was chatting with. His talents were great but as a human he was one of the kindest most generous people I’ve ever met. Yesterday, elegance died and it breaks my heart, but I hope he is in a beautiful place that’s even more lush and lavish then the world he lived in.”
Andrea Leiberman: “I absolutely have [dressed] more than one client in his dresses back in the day. He was a legend, one of a kind and he really elevated American fashion to new heights and it’s a total loss to our community. Jennifer Lopez always looked beautiful in everything [she wore by Oscar] and she really brought such beauty and energy to everything he did.”
Cornelia Guest: “I have known Oscar all my life. In fact, he knew me before I was born since he was a dear friend of my parents and spent lots of time at our house. Not only was he incredibly elegant and charming but he played a mean game of miniature golf and taught me as well. I will never forget my mother taking me to see him for my graduation dress from grade school… It was white pique and the prettiest dress I had ever seen. I was so excited to finally have ‘An Oscar.’”
Lady Annabel Astor: “Oscar brought laughter and humor into all our lives. A beautiful singer, a divine dancer, a demon at cards, and of course a hugely talented designer at everything he touched.”
Georgina Brandolini: “He was a gentleman, a friend: someone you could count on. Whether it was day or night, he would always take your call. He had a great sense of humor. I’ve known him all my life. We used to go on holiday together in Punta Cana.
“When he was at Balmain, the house really moved. I learned a lot from him when he was working in the studio. He was so attentive to all the details. He was fun to work with and after his fittings we would go to L’Ami Louis or Benoit and stuff ourselves. I had a big admiration for Oscar because he did things in a young way, always simple and chic.
“All the American ladies would come to Paris for his haute couture. People loved him. He was so good looking and charming; when people saw him they just melted.”
Stephen Burrows: “We met in 1973 before we showed at Versailles. We had a cabine of all different ethnicities. Oscar always had a diverse group of girls. That was very indicative of Versailles. There were all different shades and colors of girls. It wasn’t just white models. It was a great combination of models which is what made up society. That is what Oscar liked.
“He was just a great designer who had a vision and he stuck to it and that kept him viable for all these years. He simply had a love of nature and fashion and keeping up with the times. He was really good at that.”
Emanuel Ungaro: “I will always remember his exceptional nature, his quiet confidence, his cheerful and brotherly smile. We were both students of [Cristóbal] Balenciaga, which made us very close.”
Countess Jacqueline de Ribes: “He is the most wonderful friend in the world, a faithful one of 50 years. He was a true gentleman, the most charming and attractive one. I cannot think of New York without him. My heart and my thoughts are with Annette. His passing is a tremendous loss.”
“His collections were always feminine and refined. I have inside-out suits from him in several colors and casual gowns. When he left Paris to go to New York, he had in his pocket a reference letter from me to Diana Vreeland.”
“His first wife Françoise de Langlade was my best friend. And Annette is a very dear friend. Each time I went to New York, Annette and Oscar were the first to know. They were my friendly refuge in New York.”
Adolfo Sardiña: “It would take the day to tell you how much I feel about this. Oscar and I met in the early Sixties and have been friends since. Oscar was born in the Santo Domingo and I came from Cuba so always we spoke with each other in Spanish. We were always very good friends and in the midst of all this, Bill Blass came to be a friend of ours, too. We would just get together for friendly conversation and to be together. This is a great loss. Needless to say as a designer, I think he was tops. He made the most beautiful evening clothes I must say. They were so elegant and so timeless. Believe me this is going to be a loss. The way he made clothes, no one else is doing it like that.”
Alain Hivelin: “I first met Oscar in the late Seventies when he was developing his first perfume. I was chosen to produce all the packaging, marketing materials and the like, and during that project, I could appreciate the search for perfection that Oscar applied to everything he touched. I loved working with him, so when I joined the house of Balmain in 1995 as general manager, I did not hesitate to choose him as our couturier because Oscar had all the qualities, the technical ability, the heart. What a gentleman. His attitude was always so elegant, not only outside. He was so noble in his head, noble in his heart.
“Oscar didn’t design collections: Every dress he created was with a customer in mind, and Balmain blew up. We were one of the few couture houses that actually made money. The customers of Oscar were not customers: They were ladies of high society that he knew. Somehow, every one of his customers was his inspiration. We went around the world with Oscar, taking Balmain to Russia, to China, to Miami. I treasure those memories. I’m very sad Oscar has left us.”
Hivelin noted that the collaboration ended not long after the terrorist attacks of 2001, and after de la Renta underwent back surgery “and he didn’t want to travel so much.”
De la Renta’s final couture show at Balmain was in July 2002, ending a fruitful, 10-year collaboration. Balmain sold only about 30 dresses a season before de la Renta’s arrival. When he left, as many as 300 outfits were being sold, according to the house.
Graydon Carter: “I knew Oscar more as a neighbor up in Connecticut than as the name on beautiful dresses. He was a generous host and an even more generous guest. Those gentlemanly manners were from another world, but his humor and his sly asides were very much of this world. However much I felt like Pa Joad when the Carter family pulled up to the house in Kent that he shared with Annette, I left feeling Cecil Beaton. Charm and good manners have that effect on you.”
Paolo Zegna: “I think that he was a great name, specifically in America, but not only in America. He is one of the great brands that was built in America. Oscar de la Renta gave us a specific way of dressing and was certainly a point of reference for ladies.
“On another side, he was a great expert of fabric. He was so good at selecting great fabrics and trying new things. So we will miss him because of what he represented, not only to the customers, but also to the suppliers, after all, we are always a textile business. Oscar de la Renta is always someone we have appreciated because of his knowledge of quality fabrics. It wasn’t just an image, quality was something intimate and deep in his products.”
Giambattista Valli: “I was extremely sad to hear this, because if there are true gentlemen of the fashion world, they are Oscar de la Renta, Hubert de Givenchy and Valentino. There is such an elegance in every expression and gesture.
“I was so lucky to meet him several times and I hope I can support this same kind of gentlemanly attitude toward women. I hope to see more and more Oscar de la Rentas, not just the same in the way of talent, but also in the human way.
“I was extremely sad because it’s a loss of beauty. When I dressed Amal for her wedding and she told me Oscar was doing her wedding dress, I said to her, ‘I am Giambattista Valli, and if I was born as a woman, I would ask him to do my wedding dress.’ He was the uniqueness of the unique. He brings to mind for me the aristocracy of this profession.”
Nino Cerruti: “An incredible gentleman, a great artist, a man who used fashion to glorify beauty and elegance. He was also a man with a big heart who leaves us with such classy memories.”
Lela Rose: “One of his gifts to American fashion was his unfailing elegance and graciousness. His generous spirit and decency have long been an inspiration for how I want to conduct myself as a designer.”
Bethann Hardison: “Oscar had an eye for fashion and he appreciated beauty in all kinds of ways. I don’t think there were any models who I worked with who didn’t work with Oscar at one point or another.”
Jacopo Etro: “Oscar was always a good friend, not just a colleague. We used to see each other a lot when he was in Milan. He was pleasant, well-educated and we worked together for a long time on the creation of the fabrics for his collections. We always very much respected each other. He had incredible taste and style, he always made women look beautiful. He is a friend who will be greatly missed.”
Elizabeth Saltzman: “The lights went dim on elegance today….Oscar was the most glorious man with a smile that melted you and talent that inspired you moment after moment. No hype. All talent and class. A talent that was filled with love of life and color. I always thought Oscar was the true definition of elegance. He will be sorely missed but so happily remembered.”
Sheila McKain-Waid: “Oscar stands out as the gentleman of fashion design, a visionary creator whose love of pure creation and innate good taste led to the most magical pieces. Working with him was an honour and a pleasure, he will be much missed but fondly remembered.”
Peggy Siegal: “He was the most elegant and the most beloved on Seventh Avenue. When I was growing up my mother and all her friends always wore his clothes at the country clubs. The past 40 years, you always saw people on the streets, at charity events, at dinners — everybody wore his clothes. They were very wearable and very beautiful and elegant.”
Fern Mallis: “I remember asking him before [our 92Y talk last year], if I could ask him about his health and his cancer.…He said yes he’d like to address that. I was impressed with his extraordinary memory and recall of just about everything in his life and career. Of course he seduced and charmed everyone in the auditorium…including me.
Pamela Golbin: “Oscar de la Renta defined American elegance for over four decades. seamlessly bringing together Parisian chic and New York sophistication. His brilliance comes from the fusion of his three distinctive cultures: His Latin roots, his American vision and his European formative background not only at Balenciaga and Lanvin-Castillo but also much later as an established designer at Pierre Balmain. With this unique multi-cultural background, he was a designer whose only nationality was that of contemporary elegance. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs possesses a beautiful collection of over 30 prototypes that he generously gave to our French national collections.”
Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece: “He made the most beautiful dresses for women, I always felt special in an Oscar dress.…He had that magic. I was truly lucky to have been dressed by Oscar. I will miss him.”
Mario Boselli: “He was a great designer, and I always admired him as an internationally significant contributor to the world of fashion.”
Michael Stern: “He was one of a kind,” said Michael Stern, who was president of Parfums, de la Renta’s original fragrance licensee in the Seventies. “He had the ability to mix with the upper crust, but never lost his touch with the working person.”
Stuart Kreisler: “Ben Shaw had brought de la Renta in, and Kreisler was hired to be the sales manager of Oscar de la Renta Boutique. “He had a great sense of humor and a great sense of style,” said Kreisler. He recalled that de la Renta was balding and did a collection called the Gibson Girls. “They all wore Gibson wigs, and Oscar put on one of the wigs,” he said. “I’ve been dying to do this for years,” he recalled de la Renta saying.
De la Renta was so elegant and he learned so much from him about personal style, said Kreisler. “It was the first time I saw a Cartier tank watch, and he wore Guerlain cologne and the finest custom clothes which opened my eyes to international style and dressing,” said Kreisler.
Kreisler recalled that de la Renta came to his first wedding in Brooklyn and afterwards de la Renta, Jerry Shaw and Janet Reiss went to Nathan’s to get a hot dog and ride the Cyclone. “He had an incredible sense of humor, great style and was a great guy,” he said.
Angel Sanchez: “As a Latin he was an example, as human being he was unique and as a designer he was exquisite.”
Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia: “As we are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and mentor , we are truly grateful to have had him in our lives and celebrate the way he lived his. He will be forever in our hearts.”
Paula Wallace: “A highlight memory for me was one afternoon I spent in Oscar’s atelier in Paris. Glenn, Andre and I met Oscar and several models at a casual cafe, L’Avenue, and then we walked to his atelier. One by one, each of the dresses to be presented the next day at his fashion show, was modeled. A bevy of expert seamstresses soundlessly encased each model to tailor the clothes like bees around a hive. Oscar had brooches in a box and was not only deciding which model would wear each garment, but accessorizing each look down to the last detail: veil or no veil? He whipped out huge shears and cut off cuffs on a white blouse…snip, snip….gone! Andre called out to someone, “Bring up the Manolo black lace boots from the basement!” And it was done. Controlled but hectic creation. The next day at the show—under gold leaf filigree in historic rooms—the collection was seamlessly presented, models floating, wearing brooches and boots under perfectly contoured long skirts with just the right amount of swish. Oscar—the very definition of divine, dapper, and debonair—strode after the models to a standing ovation.
Stefano Pilati: “I had an award in Spain years ago, Oscar was also receiving an award at the same time from the Queen of Spain, that is where I met him. He was a very warm person, very Latin. That’s how I remember him. To become successful in America as a foreign designer, this is difficult to do and he did it, and then he was able to maintain that success for a long time.”
Andrew Keith: “Oscar de la Renta was a colorful, vibrant and chic creative genius who never failed to deliver beautiful collections and work his masterful combination of sophisticated cutting and floral embellishment. Over the years we have built a devoted following in Greater China and we will miss him terribly.”