Oscar de la Renta is considered an International Fashion Designer but we Americans prefer to claim him as our own (For the record, Mr. de la Renta was born in the Dominican Republic, part of the Americas. He also resides predominantly in New York City, actually, he IS New York –so yes, we win). I wonder if the 18 year old boy from the D.R. who followed his dream to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid knew that he would one day become one of the most influential designers in the history of Fashion. I don’t think there is a woman alive today who has not heard of Oscar de la Renta! Every one of my girlfriends has an “Oscar” story– the first time they obsessed over one of his beautiful creations.
I remember the first Oscar piece I coveted, it was a shimmering champagne colored frothy gown worn by Sarah Jessica Parker in 2001 (I still have a photo of it from Vogue in my desk, not kidding). I was planning my wedding at the time and was determined to wear it as my wedding dress (so it was a bit see thru and it was not white– but it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I wanted it!). Unfortunately, I was not the lucky fashion blogger that I am today with a direct line to the Oscar folks and was unable to locate the gown. But my love affair with Oscar de la Renta began, and it has grown to epic proportions ever since I met the iconic designer this spring. Tell me, do you remember the first time you fell for Oscar?
You may remember our visit to the Oscar de la Renta showroom in February, it was a day that fashion dreams are made of. Not only did I get to play with all the new Fall pieces, I was able to watch the Master of Elegance at work! Oscar is as hands on today as he was four decades ago when he began his signature ready-to-wear label, which now includes accessories such as bags, belts, and shoes. How did it all begin? During his years at the Art Academy in Madrid, Oscar became interested in the world of design and began an apprenticeship with Spain’s most renowned couturier, Cristóbal Balenciaga (which is why the Spaniards refer to him as a Spanish designer). Later, Mr. de la Renta left Spain and joined the house of Lanvin in Paris as a couture assistant (the French would like to claim him as theirs as well, but he’s ours, all ours!). In 1963, he came to New York to design the couture collection for Elizabeth Arden and the rest, as they say, is fashion history.
(Balmain Haute Couture)
In 1992, Oscar De La Renta took the role as Creative Director of Balmain, a position which he would hold for 10 years. His last collection for the House of Balmain was Haute Couture Fall 2002 but it’s evident from his ready-to-wear line that he has retained the same haute couture detailing he has practiced for decades. This is why all women should own Oscar de la Renta bags and clothes; they are truly investment pieces to be treasured for a lifetime! With so many young designers coming in and out of fashion, I am going to stick with the Master, thank you very much! I always feel fabulous in Oscar’s clothes and impossibly chic with his bags on my arm. Even my hubby, the pickiest man alive, agrees wholeheartedly and never complains when a trip to the Oscar boutique is on the agenda! And who can blame him for wanting his wife to look gorgeous!?!?
I caught up with Mr. de la Renta again this month for a quick Q & A (I know, how lucky am I that he’d give me the time of day considering his incredibly hectic schedule!?!?! He is such a gracious and kind man!). I tried to think up smart questions to impress him with, but in the end, I gave in to my curiosity and just asked him questions I think all of you would like to read about!
Bag Snob: What would you consider the biggest accomplishment of your career?
Oscar de la Renta: For me, my greatest accomplishment is that I’m able to be doing what I love most, design, and be successful at it.
BS: Tell us your childhood dreams, what did you dream of being when you grew up?
ODLR: When I was 18, I left my native Dominican Republic to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. While I was in Spain, I began sketching for newspapers and fashion houses to earn some extra money. From there, my interest in the fashion industry grew and I knew I wanted to be a designer.
BS: Do you have any hobbies?
ODLR:I am a dominos fanatic! I take the game very seriously and can be pretty competitive. I also love gardening. Ever since I was a child, I have been planting and growing my own vegetable gardens.
BS: Describe your morning routine.
ODLR:During a typical week I’ll wake up, have a light breakfast, and then immediately head over to the office to begin working in my studio. From there, it’s nonstop. But I love that about my work, because I’m a very restless person. My best times are when I am designing with my assistants.
BS: How do you relax before designing a new collection? Where and how do you find inspiration?
ODLR:I sometimes go down to my house in the Dominican Republic to relax and refresh before starting on a new collection. The beautiful vibrant and colorful island is such a wonderful source of inspiration. But in general, when I design I am mostly just thinking about a woman and how to make her look her most beautiful.
BS: Describe the perfect evening.
ODLR:An intimate dinner party with good friends, great food, and interesting conversation.
Brown alligator New Mini Fairfax bag- $17,500
BS:What should every woman have in her closet?
ODLR:Beautiful separates for mixing and layering, from sophisticated knits and jackets to feminine blouses and skirts. She also needs some stylish accessories to make the look her own, like a bold shoe or a fabulous handbag, of course.
BS: How will you spend your Summer this year?
ODLR:When I’m not working in my studio, I’ll be enjoying the peaceful fresh outdoors of my country home in Kent, Connecticut.
ODLR:All our bags for Fall are extremely luxurious, but the graphite Goya is truly the ultimate statement bag. It’s designed in a rich, soft shagreen, which makes it especially unique and exotic.
(Bag Snob note: I was secretly smug that I, too, picked the graphite Goya as the bag of the season! Goya bag, $4,795)
For more of Oscar’s fabulous bags, clothes and shoes– check out the Oscar de la Renta website or visit one of the eight Oscar boutiques in the US!!! International locations also listed on the website. But be careful, Oscar de la Renta is highly addictive!
Dallas- North Park Center Tel: 214.346.0400
LA – 8446 Melrose Place Tel: 323.653.0200
Las Vegas- The Wynn Resort Tel: 702.770.3487
NYC – 772 Madison Avenue at 66th Street Tel: 212.288.5810
Bal Harbour- 9700 Collins Avenue Tel: 305.868.7986
Manhasset- 2114 Northern Boulevard Tel: 516.627.7440
South Coast Plaza- 3333 Bristol Street 714-754-9044
We will be attending the Oscar de la Renta Resort 2009 show next week in NYC and will give you a full report. I like Resort shows, they’re usually indicative of what’s to come for spring/summer! I am also looking forward to attending shows without the mayhem of fashion week!