25 Industry Power Players Reflect On Oscar de la Renta

by The Daily

The fashion realm is mourning the loss of Oscar de la Renta today, and 25 industry powerhouses shared with The Daily their favorite moments avec Mr. de la Renta and the incredible qualities about the designer that will linger on. Unsurprisingly, effusive sentiments and truly beloved memories about the legendary designer abound. Without further ado… 

Steven Kolb, CFDA: “Oscar de la Renta was a great champion of American fashion and a loyal friend to the CFDA. Having served twice as the organization’s president from 1973 to 1976 and from 1987 to 1989, he strongly believed in the talent and business of American designers. Today, the mission of the CFDA ‘is to strengthen the influence and success of American Fashion Designers in the global economy’ and Oscar was a true champion of that mission. Oscar de la Renta established the CFDA Fashion Awards in 1980 and was the recipient of four CFDA Fashion Awards, including Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2000 and 2007, a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989, and the Founders Award, presented to him at the 2013 Awards by Hillary Clinton. He remained an active member of the CFDA Board of Directors and hosted the organization’s members at private tours of exhibits at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute and was supportive of the CFDA Foundation’s charitable work.”

Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair: “In the fashion world, or any world for that matter, there were fewer men as stalwart and just plain brave. Throughout his illness, he never complained. He just went on being a brilliant designer and great company at any gathering around him.”

Michael Kors: “The word gentleman is quickly becoming something we don’t hear anymore, but Oscar de la Renta was the quintessential gentleman. He was passionate about his friends, his family, and his clients—a true one-of-a-kind.”

Eric Wilson, InStyle: “Oscar was one of the first designers I had the opportunity to interview in person early on in my career, and while I was certainly nervous at the time, facing the prospect of meeting someone so famous, I also remembered Amy Spindler’s words of advice: Of all the designers on Seventh Avenue, he was the one who treated the assistants with as much respect as the editors in chief. (Having started at WWD during the final years of the Fairchild feud with Geoffrey Beene, I can tell you Oscar’s graciousness was a very attractive and appreciated quality.) Indeed, he more than lived up to his reputation, opening his studio any time I called upon him, explaining his designs in great detail, largely because he was so proud of both his work and equally proud of his team. Even when he was feeling mischievous, Oscar had a little twinkle in his eye. He loved to tweak his competitors, and even though his comments sometimes landed him in hot water with a First Lady or a fashion critic, it was impossible for him (or us) to ever hold a grudge. He was just such a gentleman, he often had us laughing along with whatever it was he was going on about before long.” 

Glenda Bailey, Harper’s Bazaar: “Fashion, at its best, is about grace. In this way, Oscar de la Renta was fashion. Like his clothes, he was magical. How he will be missed.”

Donna Karan: “Oscar transcends any one definition. He connected the dots—family, friends, fashion, décor, culture, politics. From Santo Domingo to New York and Paris, Oscar was the ultimate renaissance man, a true visionary, and he made it look effortless. He loved and lived life to the fullest. His passing is an end of an era. Thank you, Oscar, for showing us the true definition of elegance and passion.”

Stefano Tonchi, W: “He was a constant presence in the international fashion scene as he was in the pages of W throughout the last 40 years—as a critical social commentator with a remarkable ability to mirror the cultural changes while expressing his unique point of view through his designs.”

Linda Fargo, Bergdorf Goodman: “I always thought of Oscar as our Cary Grant. Movie star handsome, talented, and dashing, and with that great sense of humor to lighten all that beauty.”

Gucci Westman: “He really was from an old world in a way: he would take his time and talk to you, and he was such a beautiful narrator. I worked with Oscar for 10 years or so, and we would often have hair and makeup tests on Saturdays and Sundays. Oscar would always be in a suit Monday through Friday, but on weekends, he would have a super country-chic look. His son in-law, Alex, would bring in vegetables from his garden and we would sit and have a very civilized, decadent lunch. Oscar would tell us so many wonderful, captivating stories about growing up in the Dominican Republic. He was such a gentlemen of the truest sense: So distinguished, so loving, and very involved in his work. He was incredibly opinionated and passionate about every detail: the hem, the eyeliner, the hair. He could have just been at the hospital for six hours, and he’d come to work and never complain once. He created an unbelievable sense of family with his very tight and loyal team. Obviously, there isn’t another Oscar, but he did very much trust Peter Copping. Oscar hand-chose him, and it’s very important that he was able to do that. Also, his charisma was pretty jaw dropping—he’d walk into a room and everybody smiled. He’s one of those happy makers. His joy for life was infectious. I just feel incredibly blessed to have had so much time with him. I always felt very honored to be included in his group.”

Ivan Bart, IMG: “My initial thought is that he joined an army of talent and artists that left us this year. Heaven is filled with stars, and he’s been a shining one in fashion and a leader in American design. My favorite memory is a current one: Him standing only weeks ago with our Karlie Kloss at the end of his Spring fashion show, looking regal and smiling. He was once quoted that the best thing in fashion is that ‘it moves forward’. Mr. de la Renta leaves us with a beautiful collection still yet to be seen in the stores. We have from him something to look forward to!”

Ken Downing, Neiman Marcus: “Oscar understood a life well lived was a life worth living. A gentleman of grace and enormous charisma, his talents were far greater than his craft of creating clothes that filled women’s lives with confidence and beauty. Giving of himself, inside and outside of the industry, his generous spirit, warm smile and kind eyes will be missed by everyone.”

Robbie Myers, ELLE: “Oscar will be remembered as an era. A kind of beauty, elegance, romance and gentility, in the man and in his work, that is indelible.”

Zac Posen: “The news of Mr. de la Renta’s passing has deeply saddened me. He was one of America’s greatest designers and an inspiration to the entire industry. His exceptional vision, outstanding integrity, and warm character will be immensely missed by everyone who knew him and was touched by his talent. My thoughts are with his family.”

Richard David Story, Departures: “He was the north star of luxury and elegance for many of us who grew up on the sophisticated glamour of Oscar de la Renta. It was, yes, the dresses themselves, but also the women who wore them. For all those reasons, we chose Oscar as this month’s cover entitled ‘Magnificent Obsessions’. I can’t think of a lovelier or more timely tribute to one of the most elegant men and creative talents in fashion.”

Marjorie Gubelmann: “For me, Oscar de la Renta was a gentleman who knew how to make a woman feel beautiful, chic and elegant in a classic way. Yet he always captured something modern in each collection. I wear his clothes two or three nights a week, his detail to quality, fabrics, embroidery and his cut and patterns were like no other. I always feel my best and know it will be the most flattering choice for me each and every time I zip up a beautiful Oscar dress. Oscar socialized with his clients and truly understood elegance. I will miss this man, as someone who truly stood behind beautiful fashion.”

Adam Glassman, O, The Oprah Magazine:“Oscar was a warm, elegant, wickedly funny being and his designs made women feel alive and confident. Oprah wore Oscar de la Renta on the cover of O, The Oprah Magazine‘s April 2005 issue and it was one of her favorite covers—fun, flirty, and perfect.”

Keith Pollock, Interview: “When you think of Oscar de la Renta, you think not only of the extraordinary clothes, but the extraordinary life behind them. He was constantly surrounded by adoring women who brought his vision to life, who embodied the elegance, generosity, and joie de vivre he and his brand stood for.”

Lucy Sykes: “The first time I met Oscar was up at the showroom in 1998, when I was working for Town & Country as the fashion editor. We used to shoot his collections constantly. Mr de la Renta, looked like he smelled: really good and expensive, and I could not help thinking he must be a great dancer. I was right! I most admire Oscar for supporting the under dog such as designer John Galliano  and making an enormous difference in the lives of poverty stricken children. His taste level was extraordinary and his charming way effortless. My favorite quote of his: ‘I love to compete—and rules were meant to be broken.’”

Julie Macklowe: “I have always admired Mr. de la Renta for his amazing craftsmanship, dedication to fashion, and making women look and feel beautiful. He has been an inspiration not only to many designers and industry leaders, but to all of those who are touched by his brand, whether through its amazing fashion, design inspiration, and just having him as a great influence. I feel very fortunate to have collected many of his incredible designs and gowns. Each gown reflects a mastery of elegance which he embodied. It is with great sadness that such an icon has been lost to what is truly a horrible disease. I count myself amongst many who loved him and it is with great sadness that we mourn his loss today. I am confident that he, his brand, and influence will be remembered for a long time to come and we have lost an amazing man today who cannot be replaced in fashion, body or soul.”

Fern Mallis: “Oscar was one of a kind. I remember being so intimidated by him when I first met him when I was being selected to be the executive director of the CFDA in 1991. But soon after developed a great rapport, working with him as a board member of the CFDA, and one of the early chairs of Fashion Targets Breast Cancer. He defined the word ‘charming’. His clothes always left you smiling and wishing you could buy them all—or had the parties and galas to go along with them. When I emailed him about a year ago asking him if he’d join me at the 92Y for an interview, he responded immediately and was honored to do so. He ‘sold out’ very quickly, and had all of us in the palm of his hand telling marvelous stories about the Dominican Republic, Spain, and his legendary career. His passing is truly the end of an era.”

Eva Chen, Lucky: “As a former beauty editor, I always felt incredibly lucky to see the show before the show—the behind-the-scenes prep. Backstage at Oscar was always a calm affair. He would preside over what was typically madness with his trademark elegance, wit, and calm, talking with models, makeup artists, and just generally bringing a sense of magic. We all would feel like a moment was about to happen. ”

Jay Fielden, Town & Country: “Being around Mr. De la Renta or at one of his shows was always a reminder not to underestimate the importance of elegance, good manners, and generosity. He embodied all three of those ideals with total effortlessness—and I personally found it very inspiring.”

Mary Alice Stephenson: “Oscar de la Renta was pure talent, elegance and grace. Styling with his stunning designs was an honor. His clothing instantly made a picture more glamorous, feminine and powerful. When I styled models or actresses in his breathtaking gowns they would immediately feel and look like stars. But his clothing wasn’t the only thing that made girls swoon. The entire fashion industry was in love with him. He had a way of making everyone feel comfortable in his presence thanks to that handsome smile and huge heart.”

Estelle, singer: I briefly met him at a gala, and what resonated with me was his graceful gentlemanly aura. When I think of Oscar, I think, ‘It’s OK to be a glamorous lady all the time’.”

Tinsley Mortimer: “Nothing makes a women feel as glamorous as wearing an Oscar de la Renta ball gown. My favorite memory was a photo shoot with Oscar in his office for a Japanese magazine…such an honor!”

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