As a little girl, two things were considered a daily necessity: dresses and drawing. I’d wake up and beeline it to the dress-up chest, drench myself in a rainbow of tulle and tutus, then set out for the crayons to create my next refrigerator doodle. Most of the photos from my childhood appear as though I emerged from a 1980s costume party, although my mother swears she didn’t make me dress in the dark!
When I first learned that legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta had passed away this week, my heart dropped straight into my stomach. His talent was the kind that didn’t just turn women into queens, it influenced some of the most dominant fashion houses today. His resume was the stuff of legends: an apprenticeship with couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga, couture assistant at Lanvin in Paris, longtime couture designer for Balmain—and this is just a piece of it! What’s more, the way he entered the fashion world is nothing short of magical: his drawings.
To make ends meet as a painting student in Spain, de la Renta freelanced as a fashion illustrator for newspapers and fashion houses. All it took was one glance from Francesca Lodge, the wife of the U.S. Ambassador to Spain, and he had his first proposal to design a dress for her lucky daughter. His first big break seemed at once so fateful and accidental, it didn’t take long for de la Renta to get swept away into the world of fashion. Fast forward to today, and his several-decade influence truly is the shot heard ’round the red carpet. Farewell, Sir de la Renta—what a privilege it has been to witness your lifetime of creative genius!
Oscar de la Renta
July 22, 1932 – October 20, 2014