Remembering a Great: Oscar de la Renta

By Dewey MacMillen 


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I haven’t had the sheer privilege of wearing a breathtakingly beautiful Oscar de la Renta gown. However, so many have had that opportunity and are surely reflecting back on that moment (or moments) in these past few days. Oscar de la Renta, an iconic American fashion designer, passed away last Monday. While the fashion (and greater) world is mourning the loss of such an inspirational and gifted artist, it is hard not to focus on the good rather than the sadness. Celebrities, politicians, editors, family and most importantly, women have nothing but overwhelming praise and admiration not only for Oscar’s work as a designer, but as an extremely caring and wickedly humorous man. Hilary Clinton, who has been a longtime friend and fan of Oscar, spoke of his “loving spirit” and kind-hearted nature using his background in starting an orphanage in his native Dominican Republic as an example.

Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, wrote a beautiful and moving piece not about Oscar the famous designer, but about Oscar her dear and oh-so-talented friend. She pointed out that one can so easily tell when a woman is wearing de la Renta. “You look at the girl and say ‘oh, she’s very Oscar’” Wintour wrote. She also spoke of his “joie de vive” and how he was “everything you could want a friend to be.” According to those who knew him, Oscar could be content socializing with celebrities and the elite, but would also be completely happy playing dominos or simply just chatting with his “devoted staff.” It must have been a genuine gift for the people who had the privilege of having a friend like Oscar.

Oscar spoke about his endless gratitude for being “allowed to” do what he loved. He saw his status as a designer and an artist as a pure blessing. Fashion was non-political and non-partisan to him, which is the way it should be. Making a woman feel like a woman and giving them a feeling of beauty was his main objective as a designer, says fellow designer Diane von Furstenberg. He did just that, according to Boston style icon and event stylist, Alli Achtmeyer, who wore several pieces made by Oscar over the years. Achtmeyer says, “Mr. de la Renta was one of the great American designers. Wearing one of his creations was an honor and always made me feel truly elegant, just like him.”

Celebrities have nothing but love and appreciation for the work Oscar gave to the fashion world. There was no one who could create more beautifully feminine clothing that captured the true spirit and essence of a woman. His pieces were also incredibly accessible, as evidenced by the fact that powerful women across many generations wore them, which in itself is a gift. Kate Bosworth told Vogue that de la Renta was a true genius and made “a mark on American elegance.”

While Oscar may be gone, his legacy will live on and the brand he built over the incredible life he lived will continue to positively impact the fashion world for years to come. Above all, Oscar’s legacy as a human being will live on through those who knew him and most importantly, his son, whom he hoped more than anything would be “a good hearted man.” Fortunately, his son had the best possible example of that.

We thank you, Oscar!

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