October 31, 2014

Style Extra

Oscar’s Resort Look? Pure Luxury 

Women who love exquisitely feminine fashion know they can count on Oscar de la Renta to design beautiful, well-tailored clothes that are as gorgeous as they are wearable.

A favorite of social swans, starlets and presidential daughters (de la Renta was the first and only choice to dress Jenna Bush for her wedding), his vision of the good life is one that resonates with optimism and opulence. As the well-loved designer greeted his guests at his elegantly appointed resort show in New York City, he was overheard saying, "This is a happy collection." And, indeed, it is. In it, de la Renta does everything he does best—slim shantung suits, tasteful and colorful sheaths, plenty of little black dresses and frothy ball gowns. It’s all pure Oscar—and pure luxury.

Born in Santo Domingo, the would-be artist seemed destined for a life in fashion. An apprenticeship spent sketching for couturier Cristobal Balenciaga led to an assistant position at Lanvin. A few years later, legendary editor Diana Vreeland helped him land a job designing the first bespoke collection for Elizabeth Arden. He launched his own label in 1965 and became a much-lauded leader in the industry who has received both the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Superstar Award from The Fashion Group International. In the ’90s, he became the first Dominican ever to become head couturier at Balmain. Today, he presides over one of the most respected fashion houses in the world and a host of collections: ready to wear, fragrance, bridal, accessories, fur, eyewear, furniture and jewelry.

While other designers of his stature may consider living on past laurels, de la Renta has no desire to slow down. "I have never worked harder in my life as I do now, and I am loving every minute of it," he says. "The best times are when I am in my studio designing." We caught up with the design legend to get his answers to our Style Council’s questions about his latest collection and his views on the merits of enduring style.

What is it about Naples that appeals most to you?

What I love most about the women in Naples is that they embrace their femininity. They are passionate in Naples and are not intimidated by fashion. They love color, embroideries and prints. I think that they have a wonderful style.

How would you describe your ideal client?

I love all of the women who buy my clothes. I am grateful when any woman thinks enough of my work to wear it. It is the highest compliment.

Do you design with a specific type of woman in mind?

It’s the idea of designing for real women that inspires me the most. With all of my collections, I strive to make clothing that the modern woman will love. My designs are based on the idea that fashion must always be optimistic and that a woman will be enticed by beautiful clothes.

What is the inspiration for the current collection?

The collection was inspired by the idea of the modern woman and how she dresses for her lifestyle—what she wears to work, in the evening, or when she travels. Ultimately my collections are always about designing clothes that a woman will fall in love with. My goal is to make things that are beautiful and special, things that will inspire her.

The red carpet is so influential. How does dressing celebrities affect your business?

I am always happy to dress as many beautiful women as I can for the red carpet. It is a wonderful platform for exposure. I think celebrities can be very influential on the choices that women make when they shop.

What is the essential piece for a woman to have in her wardrobe?

A beautifully tailored lightweight tweed jacket that can be worn year round.

You and Loulou de la Falaise have been collaborating on a fine jewelry collection since last year. Why did you decide to go into that?

The ultimate symbol of femininity is a beautiful piece of jewelry. I think the jewelry looks absolutely beautiful and complements the clothes in an extraordinary manner.

What is the one luxury item you can’t live without?

My custom-made suits from my tailor in Madrid.

How would you define style?

Fashion is about dressing according to what is fashionable. Style is more about being yourself. I would say that the style of Oscar de la Renta is defined by my desire to make a woman look her best above all else.