The fashion world last week mourned the loss of Oscar de la Renta, one of the best known designers of the Spanish-speaking world, who died on 20 October at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer.
He was born in 1932 in the Dominican Republic, leaving at the age of 18 to study painting in Madrid. To earn some extra money, he sketched clothes for newspapers and fashion houses and thus developed a love of fashion design. His sketches soon drew media attention and led to an apprenticeship with celebrated couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga.
The rest, as they say, is history. He was catapulted to worldwide acclaim in the 1960s when his designs were favoured by then first lady Jackie Kennedy, and he continued to dress first ladies of the United States right up to Michelle Obama. His designs have also adorned various Hollywood A-listers, and his final commission was to design Amal Alamuddin’s gown for her recent wedding to George Clooney.
De la Rentareceived many accolades, and not only for his contribution to the fashion industry. He received the highest honour of the Dominican Republic, the Order of Merit of Duarte, Sánchez and Mella, and served as the country’s Ambassador-at-Large; he was awarded France’s Légiond’honneur; King Juan Carlos of Spain conferred upon him the Gold Medal of Merit in Fine Arts (Medalla de Oro al mérito en las Bellas Artes) and La Gran Cruz de la Orden del Mérito Civil (The Order of Civil Merit), and he also served as chairman of the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, which promotes Spanish tuition in the US as well as other aspects of Spanish language and culture.
Oscar de la Rentawill be immortalised by his designs and remembered for his philanthropic work. He will be sadly missed.