“The qualities I most admire in women are confidence and kindness.” These words from Oscar de la Renta are the words of a man who loved designing clothing and was also committed to empowering women through his designs. He passed away in October at the age of 82.
Oscar de La Renta’s designs have a certain elegance and regality to them that have made his name synonymous with first lady fashion. In fact, de la Renta dressed Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Regan, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama. Regarding first ladies wearing his clothing, de la Renta once said, “When you design clothes, you often think of a woman in general, but in this special case, that woman is larger than life. She will mean many different things to different people. She is an icon.” He believed it was a privilege to dress powerful, successful, influential women, and he understood the responsibility that came with it. First lady or celebrity, de la Renta is remembered for how he made his clients feel when they wore his designs.
Taylor Swift tweeted condolences for the loss of her “favorite designer of all time.” Comedian and actress Kathy Griffin tweeted, “He made this secret fashion girl’s dreams come true.” Television host Larry King called de la Renta, “One of the world’s most legendary fashion designers.” Celebrities from Gloria Estefan and Reese Witherspoon to models Karlie Kloss and Naomi Campbell mourned the death of de la Renta.
What was so outstanding about de la Renta was not just the outpouring of love for the loss of a fashion icon, but the continuous talk regarding his kind character and generosity. Many of his clients didn’t just lose a designer, but a friend. Oscar de la Renta was not only extremely talented, but he was genuinely kind and loved by many.
Besides taking the fashion world by storm, de la Renta was also heavily involved in philanthropy. Through the years, he served on the boards of Carnegie Hall, The Metropolitan Opera, and Channel Thirteen/WNET in New York City. He supported New Yorkers for Children, the Americas Society, and the Queen Sofia Institute.
De la Renta began his life as a young, hopeful boy from the Dominican Republic and pursued a love for fashion. He studied in Madrid and Paris but eventually came to New York to design for Elizabeth Arden. He began his own label in 1965.
Many will miss de la Renta. And although he built a fashion empire that’s worth plenty, there was something selfless about his designs. As much as they were for him, they were created for the woman in the room who wanted to feel beautiful, powerful, and strong. His clothing was for the actress, the singer, the model, the comedian, the first lady, and the empowered woman ready to take on the world.