Designer Retrospective: A Look at the Impact of Oscar de la Renta

Last night, news broke that famed fashion designer Oscar De la Renta passed away at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer.

De La Renta was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republican in 1932 to a family of poets, scholars and businessmen. With his mother's blessing, the creative youth moved to Madrid, Spain, at the age of 18 to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando. From there, the artistic Dominicano discovered his passion for fashion design, and soon became an assistant at Lanvin in Paris. Before long, De la Renta had developed his own label, and his classic designs quickly earned the respect of celebrities and designers worldwide and the title of Sultan of Suave. 

As we mourn the death of Oscar De La Renta, let's take a moment to celebrate his accomplishments and commemorate his legacy:

SEE: Oscar De La Renta's Most Memorable Gowns Of All Time

1. #1

 #1: He always represented his Latino roots. 

Oscar de la Renta — along with Carolina Herrera and Narciso Rodriguez — could be counted among the few Latino designers to make their mark on high fashion and haute couture. The designer, who owned homes in both Connecticut and Punta Cana, spoke about his dedication to infusing his work with Hispanic elements: “I like light, color, luminosity. I like things full of color and vibrant.” 

2. #2

#2: He continually celebrated the beauty and strength of women

De la Renta married twice — once to the late Editor-in-Chief of French Vogue, Françoise de Langlade and again to Annette De la Renta. Perhaps as a result of being married to and raised by strong women, De la Renta fully understood, appreciated, and celebrated the femininity and strength of women. "We're dealing with sophisticated customers," he once said. "What's most important to these women is individuality. I have to create things she'll want ot wear, no matter who she is." 

3. #3

#3: His designs became a red carpet fixture. 

From Cameron Diaz to Lupita Nyong'o, De la Renta dressed nearly every celebrity in Hollywood — becoming a mainstay on every red carpet. 


4. #4

#4: He accumulated countless celebrity admirers.

Countless celebrities depended upon Oscar De la Renta for their luxe, enviable, princess-worthy gowns. Among the most vocal of these is Taylor Swift — a longtime De la Renta aficionado. Alongside a picture of her jawdroping 2014 Met Ball gown, Swift wrote: "My all-time favorite designer has passed away. Oscar, it was an honor to wear your creations and to know you. In loving memory."

5. #5

#5: He designed his clothes to be timeless. 

Oscar De La Renta was less concerned with "fashion" and more focused upon influencing and complementing women's "style." He once said, "I design clothes for women to wear. I am not interested in shock tactics. I just want to make beautiful clothes."

In reference to his most recent gown — Amal Clooney's wedding dress — De la Renta said he aimed to create the classic, timeless dress every girl dreams of wearing. "Any girl from any walk of life dreams of that special dress," he said. "I try to make that dream a reality for her."

6. #6

#6: He dressed countless First Ladies. 

Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush all deferred to Oscar De la Renta to design them beautiful gowns for special events — such as their husband's Inaugural Balls. 

"We will miss Oscar's generous and warm personality, his charm, and his wonderful talents," Laura Bush said in a statement. "My daughters and I have many fond memories of visits with Oscar, who designed our favorite clothes, including Jenna's wedding dress. We will always remember him as the man who made women look and feel beautiful." 

Hillary Clinton also wrote of her regard for De la Renta, "His singular talent and exquisite taste elevated American fashion, and his warmth and friendship will be missed by our family and all whose lives he touched in his extraordinary journey," she wrote in a joint statement with her husband, Bill Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea Clinton. 

7. #7

#7: He designed some of the most iconic gowns in history. 

De la Renta defined high femininity, and his aesthetic was apparent in all of his work. His lush ball gowns — like Sarah Jessica Parker's 2014 Met Ball look and Amy Adam's 2013 Oscar's dress — wowed the world with their unfettered beauty and unparalleled glamour. 

8. #8

#8: He worked through his cancer diagnosis. 

Since 2006, De la Renta battled a cancer diagnosis that would eventually kill him. Instead of succumbing to the disease, the Dominican-American designer fought for nearly a decade, and even let the disease inspire his work. In 2011, he released a scent — Live in Love — dedicated to his struggle. 

"The only realities in life are that you are born, and that you die," he said at the time of its release. "We always think we are going to live forever. The dying aspect we will never accept. The one thing about having this kind of warning is how you appreciate every day of life." 

9. #9

#9: He inspired a future generation of designers and innovators. 

Fellow designers such as Brian Atwood, Zac Posen, Diana Von Furstenburg and Christian Siriano all expressed their remorse and sadness over the passing of a true design legend. "Very sad to hear of the passing of Oscar De la Renta," Siriano wrote on Twitter. "He was a master, and an inspiration to me and so many other artists. He made beauty." 

10. #10

#10: He left a legacy of beautiful, inspired work. 

Oscar De la Renta redefined what it meant to be feminine. He left us all with a legacy of work that celebrates Hispanic flair, American character, and the unbelievable strength and beauty of women. He left his imprint on the hearts of countless people, and inspired and shaped the lives of many other creative souls. 

He summarized his own legendary life better than we ever could: "I've lived every day to the fullest, and I've had a marvelous time. I've tried to be nice to the people I care about, and ignore the ones I don't. I enjoy what I've done."