Oscar de la Renta was born in 1932 and grew up in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. At 18, he moved to Madrid to attend art school, and began doing fashion illustrations there, including for the design house of Cristobal Balenciaga, before moving to Paris to work for Lanvin. He moved to the United States and began designing for Elizabeth Arden and then Jane Derby. After Derby’s death in 1965, de la Renta, who had become her partner, continued the design firm under his name. In 1993, he began designing for Pierre Balmain, becoming the first American (he is a naturalized American citizen) to design for a French couture house.
“Looking back at things I did in the Sixties, I was probably more daring, but the clothes weren’t in as good taste. One thing I’ve learned since then is to edit.” Oscar de la Renta.
De la Renta is credited with sparking the gypsy and Russian styling fashion trends during the 1970s. De la Renta’s clothes are known for glamorous ornamentation and feminine silhouettes that flatter a woman’s body. His specialty is luxurious eveningwear.
De la Renta has twice won the Coty American Fashion Critic’s Award, won the Council of Fashion Designers of America Womenswear Designer of the Year Award in 2000, and has received the Council of Fashion Designers of America Lifetime Achievement Award.
Among his most famous clients have been First Ladies Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Laura Bush.
The Kent State University Museum is the repository of many of his couture designs, and has established a gallery exhibition encompassing his career.