Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Kent, Connecticut, United States
Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1932, Oscar de la Renta studied painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid at the age of 18. While there, he drew clothes for newspapers and fashion houses to support himself. De la Renta then worked as a fashion illustrator for Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga, and as an assistant to Antonio del Castillo, head designer of Lanvin-Castillo in Paris, before moving to New York City in 1963 to design couture and ready-to-wear collections for Elizabeth Arden. Although de la Renta would establish his eponymous company in 1965, he continued to design for Arden throughout the late 1960s. De la Renta’s early designs for both the Elizabeth Arden label as well as his own collections reveal the influence of ethnographic design vocabularies; these creations gained him widespread attention in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and earned him a Womenswear (“Winnie”) Award from the Coty American Fashion Critics in 1967, the first of many accolades that he would receive over his multi-decade career. De la Renta’s training with leading European couturiers continuously informed his aesthetic, but his appreciation for classic fashion styles – such as skirt suits, cocktail dresses, and full-skirted ball gowns – was further attuned after serving as head designer for the French couture house Balmain from 1993 until 2002. In his collections, particularly after his time with Balmain, de la Renta made these timeless silhouettes his own by rendering them in vibrant colors and prints, and with decorative embellishments such as embroidery, beading, and sequins. Oscar de la Renta passed away in Kent, Connecticut, in 2014.