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Lucire: Fashion
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Lucire 2011 Oscar de la Renta The designer chats to Pamela Golbin at the Alliance Française in New York

Oscar de la Renta: from artist to fashion icon

Lola Saab delves into the history of Oscar de la Renta as she joins him at the Fashion Talks series at the French Institute Alliance Française in New York
CATWALK PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAN LECCA

 

‘I ALWAYS SAY that creativity comes from obviously having a dream and then keeping your eyes open,’ says Oscar de la Renta, who took his dream and transformed it into a reality.
   He has dressed a number of women and he has seen fashion evolve over the years. ‘Fashion is growing; woman has an international projection of herself … fashion is a global business.’
   Oscar de la Renta, born Oscar Aristides Renta Fiallo, successfully followed his passion and aspiration in creating magnificently fashionable pieces admired by a large population. For almost five decades he has designed clothing that women crave as well as desire to hold, touch, feel and most of all, wear. His pieces are wonderfully magical and overly detailed with stunning colours that superbly project flares of elegance.
   ‘Every single day for me, there is a learning process … The day that I say, “I know it all,” that day I should stop working.’
   On Monday, April 4, 2011, the French Institute Alliance Française welcomed Oscar de la Renta. Melissa Ceria, the director of the Art de Vivre programme at FIAF, introduced the final instalment of Fashion Talks 2011.
   She describes the discussion with Oscar de la Renta as a ‘conversation about modern elegance … known for his love of colour, opulent fabrics, lady-like silhouettes and his ability to make women look their most beautiful.’
   As he and Pamela Golbin made their way on stage, the audience happily applauded; they impatiently waited for the fashion legend to share his perspective of the fashion world.
   From working alongside Cristóbal Balenciaga in his youth, to becoming Antonio Castillo’s assistant and soon designing custom clothing for Elizabeth Arden, it did not take long for the aspiring fashion designer to finally create his own clothing line.
   Oscar de la Renta takes us behind the scenes from the beginning of his career to the foundation of his work.
   ‘Well, I was never really interested in fashion … I was born in the Dominican Republic, I went to Spain at 18, 19 years old … I come from a big family; I have six sisters, I was the only boy … the youngest,’ says the talented designer as he begins to take us on a journey from the depth of his life, before he decided to dive into a career that eventually earned him a name yearned for by women all over the world.
   He was barely exposed to the fashion world throughout his childhood, until he made his way to Spain to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando. His artistic field expanded and he began creating fashion illustrations. This first step turned into a whole new aspect that soon paved a way into the fashion industry. He describes this to be the very core of his beginnings. Shortly afterwards, he was introduced to the house of Balenciaga, an haute couture fashion house.
   He explains to us the various skills he acquired at Balenciaga including, ‘looking how fittings were done and going into the sample rooms and seeing how clothes were being cut.’ Once Oscar de la Renta was prepared to spread his wings into the outside world, he was ready and very anxious to set sail to Paris and fulfil his dreams in a city where fashion lingers. Once arriving in Paris, he soon met Antonio Castillo, the head designer at the house of Jeanne Lanvin at the time, who was searching for an assistant.
   Oscar de la Renta highlights the differences that he encountered between working with Balenciaga and Castillo: ‘I was used to see Balenciaga work hands-on every garment, Castillo did not work that way. Castillo would make a sketch and he would give the sketch to the première of the atelier and she would come and prepare the canvas and we would look at the canvas and we would look at the corrections …’
   In 1962, the designer’s international horizons in the world of fashion were already expanding. He eventually landed in New York City. He passionately conveys how times have changed and how he went from working behind the scenes in the exclusive European market of haute couture to the vast American market. ‘When I started my career … we were creating clothes for a very small segment of the population. There is no question that the most important consumer today is a professional woman.’ De la Renta continues, ‘There has never ever been in the history of time a woman as in control of her destiny as a woman today; that certainly makes our work far much more difficult and certainly more challenging, but at the same time far much more exciting … She is dressing for herself and also to project the image of whom she is as an individual.’ He began designing couture and ready-to-wear for Florence Nightingale Graham, who went by her business name of Elizabeth Arden.
   ‘Believe strongly in what you are doing,’ says the designer, ‘and do your very best.’ This is exactly what Oscar de la Renta did. Only three years later, in 1965, Oscar de la Renta’s empire flourished, and extravagant pieces came to life with the labels consisting of his own name. His secret to reaching to women’s hearts and knowing what will allow them to feel beautiful is, ‘You have to know how to reach the consumer and you have to understand who your consumer is … fashion is the reflection of the time in which we live.’
   The designer has created unforgettable pieces that truly portray a woman’s beauty. ‘Don’t follow any fads. If there is something that comes along that you think is right for you, wear it.’
   On February 16, 2011 Oscar de la Renta presented his autumn–winter 2011–12 collection during New York Fashion Week. Each ensemble represented luxury and rich glamour. The collection included overly detailed work using delicate materials with wonderfully vibrant colours. Oscar de la Renta’s collection portrays his skill of high fashion he has come to represent over the years.
   Since the birth of the Oscar de la Renta brand name, the designer has dressed celebrities, political figures and other universally recognized women. However, amongst these clients, he says, ‘An important customer is an anonymous girl in the street who likes your clothes, who identifies with your clothes, who wants to buy your clothes; to fall in love with what you do is creating things that a woman first identifies with and that she falls in love with.’

‘Don’t follow any fads. If there is something that comes along that you think is right for you, wear it’

 




 


Lola Saab is Paris editor of Lucire.

 

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Pamela Golbin: fashion’s language defined
Lola Saab speaks with Pamela Golbin, the Chief Curator of the Musée de la Mode et du Textile at the Louvre, on her series of talks featuring Tory Burch, Lorenz Bäumer and Oscar de la Renta
photographed by Julien Vallé

 

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