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Oscar de la Renta: 1932—: Fashion Designer - High Fashion And Working Women

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One reason for de la Renta's sustained success has been his ability to provide fresh, elegant styles for modern women. At first catering to the expensive tastes of the upper classes, de la Renta's style has evolved to consider the likes and needs of working women. He told National Review, "Today you don't make your name by selling one dress to an extraordinary lady. You make your name and your money by selling to the masses.… Back in the Sixties, when I designed expensive clothes, my customer was a woman whose first occasion of the day was to put on a nice dress and have lunch with a friend." According to de la Renta, women's needs have changed, as has their role in society. Rather than focusing on a singularly important designer outfit, women want clothes with less vivid colors and more durability so that they can be worn repeatedly. In other words, de la Renta designs the women's equivalent of men's basic grey and navy outfits, but adds to his women's designs a unique sense of softness and style that allow women to retain their femininity.

Because of the important roles that image and name recognition play in the fashion industry, de la Renta has continued to design high fashion clothing for the wealthy and famous, which garners high levels of publicity. However, his operations depend largely on the success of his fashion accessories, which provide the majority of the company's profits. The designer also balances his design offerings to appeal both to the fashion world and to the general public. Explaining himself to National Review, de la Renta noted, "The most important thing for any collection is that it is identifiable as the style of the designer, but in doing that I try to arrange my collections so that they will be a balance of clothes where some will be more appreciated by the press and others by the real customer."

In 1983 de la Renta's wife died, and the following year he adopted a son, Moisés Oscar, from Casa de Nios, an orphanage and childcare facility in the Dominican Republic that de la Renta built and continues to fund through an annual benefit fashion show. For his charitable efforts to care for the needs of the children of his homeland, the Dominican Republic has bestowed on de la Renta two of its highest honors, El Merito de Juan Pablo Duarte and the Order of Cristobal Colon. In 1989 the designer married Annette Engelhard Reed, heiress to the Englehard metals dynasty. De la Renta continues to live and work in New York, although he maintains multiple homes around the world, including a 200-acre estate in Connecticut and a home and working fruit plantation, Casa de Madera, in the Dominican Republic.


Sources

Books


Contemporary Designers, St. James, 1997.

Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, Gale Research, 1996.

Contemporary Fashion, St. James, 1995.


Periodicals


National Review, October 13, 1997.


On-line


American Decades CD-ROM, Gale Research, 1998. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center, The Gale Group, www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC

http://www.embusa.es/emba/mislisen.html

Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation, www.hispanicawards.org

Hispanic Online, www.hispaniconline.com (May 2002).

—Kari Bethel

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