Oscar de la Renta: The Master of Elegance

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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! oscargown2001.jpg 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?


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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.

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(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!?!?

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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.

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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?

dominos.jpgODLR: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

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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.

goyaonrunway.jpgBS: Your favorite bag for Fall?

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

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Status Dog Tag Clutch in ring lizard- $4495

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!

17 thoughts on “Oscar de la Renta: The Master of Elegance

  1. love oscar!!! he is the master of everything! I am savingfor a cocktail dress. love love love this profile!!!

  2. Wow! That was awesome. How lucky for you to go to the resort collection as well. They are so fun. They have a much more light hearted feel to them. Congratulations. A great interview with a great man.

  3. Hi Tina,

    Are you back from your holidays then? :)

    Great article, I love that Status Dog Tag Clutch!

    I’ve visited Oscar’s boutique in Harrods two weeks ago and I just couldn’t take my eyes of everything-such beautifully made pieces! The handbags were really show stopping!

    He is one of the greatest designers of all times and such a fantastic person too!

    xoxo

  4. wonderful write up. I love how you write! oscar asa young man looks like a movie star! you should try to get that dress =)

  5. mette on said:

    Great bags, we have seen them before. The grey one was definitely your size Tina, as I mentioned before, and therefore too small for me. What size is the mini Fairfax-? It is extremely expensive,so it must be something special.

  6. OMG!!! Tina!! that is also the first time I fell in love with him as well!!! when I first saw that gown on SJP….I wanted that dress sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo BAD!!!!! it is still my FAV!!!! I knew of oscar b4 that gown (who didnt) but that is when I wanted to start collecting his designs!!!!! I LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!! THAT DRESS!!! did I say that already?!?! lol. and I LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! Him!!..and how lucky are u to have met Mr ODLR!!! I almost fainted when I saw the photo of u 2 together!! good job T!!!! =)

    PS..Im on the list for the graphite goya bag!!! got on it when u first wrote about it, I cant wait to hold it in my arms!!!!(sigh)

  7. Rayne on said:

    The first time I fell in love with Oscar was when I saw the Goya bag on your site. For a student of very limited means, I am saving everything I’ve got but by my calculations, it should be about ten more months before I can afford it.

    I don’t understand the fashion cycles. Is it too much to hope that the Goya will still be available in ten months? Where would I go to get it then? Will Oscar still be selling it? What is your advice for purchasing a bag that’s “behind” a few months? Or will I just have to resign myself to the fact that I cannot save up enough in time. Please advise!

  8. Julie on said:

    TIna,

    Thank you for a wonderful interview. I love ODLR and just spent a small fortune on some dresses at the Neiman’s private sale. Who could resist 30% off? I can’t wait to get my Goya bag, epitome of timeless elegance and chic.

    xoxo

  9. Bag Snob Tina on said:

    Hello Lovelies,

    trust me, I pinch myself all the time. I do know how lucky we are!!!

    Lina, I am still on vacation in Florida, but I am constantly working :) All I need is a cell and wireless internet and I can work from anywhere in the world! Right now I am on a patio looking out on the ocean while my son runs around like a maniac chasing sand crabs and searching for alligators. Poor thing, he loves alligators and will be so horrified when he finds out I love alligators, too. But not for the same reason as he does.

    Mette- the Goya is 16″ wide, not small at all!

    I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all your sweet comments. You will not believe some of the crazy comments we get from people who are obviously bored lunatics :)

    xoxo

  10. The Goya looks so lovely!

    How does the bag close?

    How stiff is the shagreen? Is it stiff enough to keep that lovely sack shape on its own? And will it sag (a la the The LV Speedy)when I put things in it?

    ~E

  11. Devon Kim on said:

    Wow, I really like that Graphite Goya bag. I didn’t know that Oscar de la Renta made bags, YAY! I think you should check out http://www.pleatspleaseshop.com; there’s these really cool bags I found called the “Bilboa bag.” I think you’d like them. Enjoy!

  12. Bag Snob Tina on said:

    Hi E- the shagreen is lovely and soft but holds its shape from the interior leather lining. The bubble shape will prevent it from sagging like the speedy :)

    Julie- I know what you mean, I can’t resist anything from ODLR! I just got a Pre-Fall dress fed ex overnight to me on vacation! I am completely addicted.

    xoxo

  13. Bag Snob Tina on said:

    Dear Rayne, I am impressed with your taste as a young student! You are such a Bag Snob in training!

    I love that you have budgeted and figured out how long it will take you to save up for a Goya bag.

    I will talk to Oscar people but have a feeling the Goya is here to stay for a while :) We also have an exciting announcement regarding the bag soon, so hang tight and stay tuned!

  14. I am glad to hear the goya has interior leather lining. You had a post previously about the linings of handbags being satin and other fabrics, I have been paying attention to this. I almost purchased a Chanel and looked inside to find satin lining on a $3,000 bag. I passed.

  15. What a great article! I love the questions you asked Mr.De la Ranta, he is truly an icon in the Fashion industry! And what an honor to meet and interview the genius in person!!

  16. Great interview! What an honor to have interviewed him! I can understand why you still keep a photo of the champagne dress on your desk, it’s stunning!

  17. Anna from Sofia/Bulgaria on said:

    The firt time I fell in love in Oscar was..when i was 17..imagine East European girl..reading her first Vogue..

    and here she was..a perfect dress for me..im not a model type ..but this dress was made just for my figure.. unfortunatly it was immposible for me to have that DRESS …

    but still i went in my “Oscar’s dress” at my prom.. sorry i made a copy of her… i knew it was not the same…

    but this is how i felt in love..in Oscar..

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