It’s hard to imagine the fashion industry without Oscar de la Renta in it. His global empire is known for creating designs full of timeless elegance, feminine beauty and exquisite craftsmanship. Although de la Renta is no longer with us, his legacy lives on with his incredible team that continues to create quality pieces in the fashion and bridal world.
How It All Began
Oscar de la Renta was born on July 22, 1932 in the Dominican Republic. He was raised by his mother and grandmother alongside six sisters. At 18 years old, he moved to Spain to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. That’s where de la Renta fell in love with the fashion world and started sketching for major Spanish fashion houses. He switched gears to design and landed an apprenticeship with renowned couturier Cristobal Balenciaga.
While still in college, de la Renta caught the eye of Italian actress Francesca Lodge. She asked the young designer to create a debutante gown for her daughter Beatrice. This was de la Renta’s first time dressing someone connected to American politics and it wouldn’t be his last. He would later go on to dress many first ladies of the U.S. including Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.
While vacationing in Paris in 1961, de la Renta was hired for his first real fashion job at Lanvin-Castillo. Just two years later, he joined the American design house of Elizabeth Arden in New York and designed couture and ready-to-wear collections. In 1965 he decided to release his first ready-to-wear collection under his own label.
By 1967, de la Renta had earned his first Coty Award, a prestigious award recognizing a designer for their contribution to fashion, for his “The Road of Spices” collection. His lines were modern yet romantic and became well-known for their use of delicate silk prints, soft silhouettes and vibrant palette. In 1977 he launched “Oscar”, his first fragrance that became an international bestseller.
Getting into the Bridal Industry
From there, de la Renta became recognized as one of the leading red carpet and evening wear designers, but he wanted to expand his label even further. He launched an accessories line in 2001 and a furniture line in 2002. By 2004, his first flagship store opened on Madison Avenue and he launched an eyewear collection.
Another big year for de la Renta was 2006 when he designed a boutique hotel at the Puntacana Resort and Club. It was also the year his first bridal collection was born. His first big-name bride came to him in 2008, a woman named Jenna Bush—aka the first daughter of the United States.
Today, his wedding gowns, similar to his evening wear, are distinctly modern yet feminine with classic & elegant details. Brides also pay a pretty penny for his gowns—on average they retail around 14-thousand dollars.
His Empire Today
De la Renta’s name continued to grow worldwide with many more accolades and collections to follow. By 2012, he had launched a new home and childrenswear collection. In 2014, he received the Medal of Excellence from Carnegie Hall in New York City. He also named Peter Copping as creative director, a new position for the company. This would be one of de la Renta’s last decisions for the company before his passing.
In 2014, De la Renta passed away from cancer at age 82. He was surrounded by family in Connecticut and left behind a giant legacy to his family-owned company. His son-in-law Alex Bolen became the company’s CEO and in 2017 two of his treasured employees, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, replaced Copping and were named co-creative directors.
Today, the de la Renta name lives on through fine craftsmanship and fresh designs for all of his labels including bridal, ready-to-wear, shoes, handbags, jewelry, and more. The company has locations all over the U.S. and are currently working on international expansion—a showroom and store in Paris plus a new office in China.
We are swooning over the Spring 2021 bridal collection, but you’d never know how much work was done behind the scenes. Designers Garcia and Kim were short on supply due to the pandemic—their gowns typically feature intricate hand-beading and embroidery in India.
They decided to experiment with simpler yet stunning gowns with features like the feathered high-low skirt, the silk flowers draped around the shoulders and the ivory leaves. We love the flowy and feminine designs plus the use of different fabrics. These gowns are a 10 out of 10 for us and we think their risk paid off!
Hello, BOLD! We are loving the pre-fall 2021 collection—the bright colors, the fruity prints, the sultry skirts, all of it. The pineapple motif is actually a nod to a design from the 1992 Oscar collection. We also love the contrast of the model’s expressions from moody chic to fun and giggly. What an awesome collection to look forward to!
These celebrity brides said “yes” to de la Renta and we have serious heart-eyes for each of them. Jenna Bush’s beaded organza gown is true de la Renta style. We love that she skipped the veil and wore white flowers in her hair instead. But can we talk about Kate Bosworth’s wedding veil?
It was simply stunning paired with her low-back strapless dress and dramatic 16-foot-long train. Bosworth said she wanted to feel like she was wrapped in Oscar’s beautiful fabrics and the spool unraveled as she walked.
But the bride that takes the cake is Amal Alamuddin. She chose an exquisite off-the-shoulder French-lace gown that was custom made by de la Renta. Her fitting, shown above, was featured in Vogue while her actual nuptials to George Clooney were featured in People magazine. Her 380-thousand-dollar dress is considered one of the most inspirational wedding gowns of all time and was the last wedding dress the late designer created before he passed away.
As mentioned before, de la Renta dressed nearly a dozen first ladies of the White House. His designs have been worn around the world by these powerful women, like Jacqueline Kennedy’s peach dress during her visit to India. Hillary Clinton wore a beautiful gown by the designer at the 1997 inaugural ball and Laura Bush wore a sparkly number for the 2005 Stars and Stripes Ball.
De la Renta’s gowns were on display for an exhibit at the Clinton Presidential Library, along with a video about his friendships with the women of the White House. “Fashion is nonpolitical and nonpartisan,” de la Renta said. “To me, it's a tremendous privilege that I have been able to dress all these extraordinary ladies.”
We couldn’t show off our fave Oscar de la Renta looks without taking it to the red carpet! Hundreds of celebs have worn his designs and for good reason. Oprah Winfrey stunned in a navy ruffled gown with the man himself on her arm at the 2010 Met Ball. Actress Jennifer Garner looks fringe-tastic at the Academy Awards and T-swift was named one of the best dressed celebs at the 2014 Met Ball. (I mean, check out that train detail!) One of our absolute favorite looks was in 2011. Emma Watson was simply glowing in a custom grey tulle gown for the premiere of the final Harry Potter film. She looks amazing and we just love that gown on her!
Every design that has carried the Oscar de la Renta name has been nothing short of fabulous, and we definitely think the man behind the brand brought a lot of that inspiration and creativity. His passion to create will continue to serve his well-known brand for decades to come.