MAKE IT A MELBA: Even with a first name that can suffice as an introduction, Oscar de la Renta gamefully shared some of the side notes to his career during Wednesday’s Q&A with Bunny Williams at the Design Leadership Summit at the New York Public Library. The crowd learned that the designer is a shark card player, a magical gardener and a wonderful singer who could give his friend Julio Iglesias a run for his money.

De la Renta wasn’t afraid to share some of his greener moments, such as being “terrified” by the idea of drawing live nudes in art school. He also proved to be a quick study after school.

This story first appeared in the November 7, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Once after class we went to this fancy bar and everybody started ordering these drinks I had never heard of. ‘May I have a very dry martini? Can I have a Manhattan?’ So I was thinking very quickly and I remembered a name that I heard. I said, ‘Can I have a peach melba?’ A friend said, ‘Do you know peach melba is a dessert?’ I said, ‘But that’s what I want.’”

Speaking of his mentor Cristóbal Balenciaga, the designer noted that the first house that Balenciaga opened in San Sebastián went bankrupt and due to Spain’s bankruptcy laws he could not use his name there. That eventually led him to Paris. De la Renta also mentioned that vintage Balenciaga carries the Eisa label, which was taken as a tribute to his mother.

Regarding his decision to bring John Galliano in-house temporarily this spring, he said, “I’ve known John for more than 30 years. He is an extraordinary talent. John has a lot of problems. I very strongly felt that when people fall, you should try to lift them up. I think everyone in life deserves a second chance. I’m not sure about a third or fourth. It was great to have another eye. It’s so important to have someone challenge you.”

Later in the program, de la Renta said that he hopes “that one day Galliano will come back. But if it’s not John, it will be somebody else.”

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