The legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta died Monday at the age of 82. The renowned talent, who most recently designed Amal Clooney’s wedding dress, had been fighting cancer since diagnosed on 2006. He reportedly looked “frail” at his Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2015 women’s wear show in New York City last month (see photo above).
Born in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1932, he was the only son of seven children in a middle-class household. De la Renta fell in love with fashion design after leaving home at 18 to study painting in Madrid. He was an apprenticeship with mentor Cristóbal Balenciaga before landing a job with Lanvin in Paris.
In the early 1960s, First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy began to frequently wore his designs, putting de la Renta no the map. He then launched his ready-to-wear label in 1965 in New York.
The iconic designer has dressed the world’s biggest celebrities, stateswomen, fashionistas, and prestigious people of all sorts ever since. A favorite of the Ladies-Who-Lunch crowd, the always tanned and smiling de la Renta’s creations were ever-present on the red carpet, worn by Oprah Winfrey, Lea Michele, Jennifer Garner, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Alba, Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Allison Williams, to name just a handful of his admirers. He was also a favorite in the political world. After Jackie Kennedy, he dressed first lady Nancy Reagan in the 1980s, and provided the gowns for inaugural events for Hillary Clinton in 1997 and Laura Bush in 2005. Michelle Obama finally wore one of his dresses in the last few weeks.
From 1973 to 1976, and from 1986 to 1988, he served as President of the Council of Fashion Designers (the CFDA). De la Renta’s talents receive continual international recognition. He was a two-time winner of the American Fashion Critic’s Award and was inducted into the Fame in 1973. He also received the Council of Fashion Designers Designer of the Year Award in 2000 and in 2007 (tied with Proenza Schouler) and was honored with the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award in February 1990.
Last year, the CFDA’s Executive Director Fern Mallis called de la Renta “the sultan of suave.” At the same event, the designer spoke of his cancer. “The only realities in life are that you are born, and that you die. We always think we are going to live forever. The dying aspect we will never accept. The one thing about having this kind of warning is how you appreciate every single day of life.”
The “sultan” was married to first wife, Francoise de Langlade, until she passed from bone cancer in 1983. Shortly after, de la Renta adopted a son from orphanage in his native country and then married socialite Annette Engelhard Reed, now 74, in 1989.
On Oct. 13, the de la Renta design house announced it had named Peter Copping as the new creative director.
Here is a collage of beautiful stylings from the beloved designer, whose talent will forever be remember and admired.
(Lead Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)