Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo (22 July 1932 – 20 October 2014), known professionally as Oscar de la Renta, was a Dominican fashion designer. Born in Santo Domingo, he was trained by Cristóbal Balenciaga and Antonio del Castillo. De la Renta became internationally known in the 1960s as one of the couturiers who dressed Jacqueline Kennedy. He worked for Lanvin and Balmain. His eponymous fashion house has boutiques around the world including in Harrods of London and Madison Avenue in New York.
Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo, the youngest of seven children and the only boy in his family, was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to a Dominican mother, Carmen María Antonia Fiallo, and a Puerto Rican father, Óscar Avelino De La Renta, owner of an insurance company. His mother's family were so embedded in Dominican society that they could count poets, scholars, and businessmen, as well as top army brass among their members. One maternal received every degree the University of Santo Domingo could offer, and another maternal uncle was a diplomat and poet.
On his father's side, De la Renta's great-great grandfather José Ortíz de la Renta was the first mayor of Ponce, Puerto Rico, elected by popular vote and who had the distinction of serving as mayor eight times, the most ever for the city.
De la Renta was raised Catholic in a protective family. His mother died from complications of multiple sclerosis when he was 18.
At the age of 18, he went to study painting in Spain at the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. For extra money, he drew clothes for newspapers and fashion houses. After Francesca Lodge, the wife of John Davis Lodge, the U.S. Ambassador to Spain, saw some of his dress sketches, she commissioned de la Renta to design a gown for her daughter. The dress appeared on the cover of Life magazine that fall. He quickly became interested in the world of fashion design and began sketching for leading Spanish fashion houses, which soon led to an apprenticeship with Spain's most renowned couturier, Cristóbal Balenciaga. He considered Cristóbal Balenciaga his mentor.
In 1961, de la Renta left Spain to join Antonio del Castillo as a couture assistant at Lanvin in Paris.
In 1963, de la Renta turned to Diana Vreeland, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, for advice, saying that what he really wanted was to "get into ready to wear, because that's where the money is". Vreeland replied, "Then go to Arden because you will make your reputation faster. She is not a designer, so she will promote you. At the other place, you will always be eclipsed by the name of Dior." De la Renta proceeded to work for Arden for two years in New York City before he went to work for Jane Derby, an American fashion house. When Derby died in August 1965, de la Renta took over the label.
In 1966, de la Renta became the third husband of Françoise de Langlade (1921–1983), an editor-in-chief of French Vogue who once worked for the fashion house of Elsa Schiaparelli. They were married until she died of cancer in 1983. After her death, de la Renta adopted a boy from the Dominican Republic and named him Moisés.
In 1967 and 1968, de la Renta won the Coty Award (the U.S. fashion industry "Oscars") and in 1973 was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame.
From 1973 to 1976, and from 1986 to 1988, he served as President of the CFDA. He is also a two-time winner of the American Fashion Critic's Award.
In 1977, de la Renta launched his fragrance, OSCAR, followed by an accessories line in 2001 and a homewares line in 2002. The new business venture included 100 home furnishings for Century Furniture featuring dining tables, upholstered chairs, and couches.
In February 1990, he was honored with the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award. That same year, the designer married Annette Engelhard (born 1939).
From 1993 to 2002, de la Renta designed the haute couture collection for the house of Balmain, becoming the first Dominican to design for a French couture house.
In 2004, he added a less expensive line of clothing called O Oscar. De la Renta said he wanted to attract new customers whom he could not reach before. In 2006, the Oscar de la Renta label diversified into bridal wear.
De la Renta's designs have been worn by a diverse group of distinguished women and celebrities. De la Renta's brand saw international wholesale growth beginning in 2003, under the direction of CEO Alex Bolen, from five to seventy-five locations. De la Renta's ready-to-wear designs are available in his retail stores, online, and with select wholesale partners worldwide.
De la Renta was regarded as an unofficial ambassador of the Dominican Republic, his home country, and held a diplomatic passport. He had homes there in Casa de Campo and Punta Cana, in addition to his residence in Kent, Connecticut.
In 2006, de la Renta designed Tortuga Bay, a boutique hotel at Puntacana Resort and Club. The hotel is part of the luxury hotel collection, The Leading Hotels of the World.
That same year De la Renta was diagnosed with cancer. A year later at the CFDA "Fashion Talks" event, Executive Director Fern Mallis called him "The Sultan of Suave". At that event, he spoke of his cancer, saying:
Yes, I had cancer. Right now, I am totally clean. 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.
De la Renta's talents received continual international recognition. Among them, he received the Council of Fashion Designers Designer of the Year Award in 2000 and in 2007 (tied with Proenza Schouler). King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed de la Renta with two awards, the Gold Medal of Bellas Artes and the La Gran Cruz de la Orden del Mérito Civil. He was recognized by the French government with the Légion d'honneur as a Commandeur.
In 2014, the George W. Bush Presidential Center hosted an exhibit entitled "Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style" which shared the designer's creations for Mrs. Bush and America's First Ladies.
De la Renta died of complications from cancer on October 20, 2014, at his home in Kent, Connecticut, at the age of 82.
De la Renta had stepchildren from both marriages. His son-in-law Alex Bolen currently operates as Chief Executive Officer, and stepdaughter Eliza Bolen serves as Vice President of Licensing at Oscar de la Renta, LLC.