As the world mourns the passing of Oscar de la Renta, those closest to him, both professionally and personally, are paying their own heartfelt tributes to the legendary designer. He not only changed and enhanced the lives and careers of many influential people in the industry (and outside of fashion, too), but he also made them laugh with his frank humor and a food-related barb or two. So have some tissues on hand and read on for all the reasons why Oscar de la Renta will be missed -- and remembered.
The Vogue editor-in-chief, Conde Nast artistic director, and all-around fashion powerhouse was, of course, personal friends with De la Renta. She and daughter Bee Shaffer visited the designer during his final days at his home in Kent, Connecticut. "His last words to me were I love you, and I said I love you back," she writes on Vogue.com. She recalls his resolution to attend her son's wedding this summer despite obstacles, and his own failing health: "He was determined to come to [my son] Charlie’s wedding, but was sent by his assistant to the wrong airport. Yet he turned up with a smile and kiss at the last minute to put the veil on Elizabeth [Cordry, the bride] and send her down the aisle in the dress of her dreams. Every girl’s dream."
The Clinton Family
De la Renta's influence (and friendship) transcended the fashion world. He was also very close to the Clinton political dynasty -- especially former presidential first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to CNN.com, she honored the designer at an event in April and gave him credit for trying to turn her into a fashion icon ("Year in and year out, he's never given up."). His response, "My beloved Hillary, do not disappoint me. You have to be president, okay?"
The entire Clinton family officially released a touching statement, including these heartfelt words on how De la Renta made an impact on more than the fashion and celebrity world: "Oscar’s remarkable eye was matched only by his generous heart. His legacy of philanthropy extended from children in his home country who now have access to education and healthcare, to some of New York’s finest artists whose creativity has been sustained through his support."
The former New York Times fashion critic may have had a beef with Oscar de la Renta back in 2012, but the two power players since buried the hatchet. (She says "hot dog," he says "stale three-day-old hamburger," bygones.)
Along with NYT writer Enid Nemy, the outspoken critic honored her former verbal sparring partner, calling him "the last survivor of that generation of bold, all-seeing tastemakers" and praising him for his ability to adapt his business to millennial technological advancements and an increasingly celebrity-obsessed world. "He also dressed four American first ladies, but it was Hollywood glitz, rather than nice uptown clothes, that defined him for a new age and a new customer. Just as astutely he embraced social media. Many high-end designers had bigger businesses. Some were more original. But very few were fearless enough to adapt to a cultural shift."
Oscar de la Renta, the LLC, is a family affair -- son-in-law Alex Bolen is the chief executive officer and daughter Eliza is the executive vice president. According to New York, De la Renta (the designer) liked to wisecrack that his son-in-law might fire him one day. Bolen's response: "I think you’re safe for a few more days."
The couple posted an especially tearjerking -- and handwritten -- homage to the company founder (and dad) on the oscardelarenta.com. "We write to let you know that Oscar passed away last night at home in Connecticut surrounded by family, friends and more than a few dogs. He died exactly as he lived: with tremendous grace, great dignity and very much on his own terms. While our hearts are broken by the idea of life without Oscar, he is still very much with us."
Diane von Furstenburg and Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)
Oscar de la Renta was the CFDA. He served twice as president of the organization (in the '70s and the '80s); he founded the CFDA Fashion Awards (which we have to thank for Altuzarra and Public School) in 1980; and, as a designer, he also received multiple awards, including the Founder's and the Lifetime Achievement honors. The organization website pretty much says it all: "There would be no CFDA today without Oscar’s involvement and our work today continues thanks to him." Current CFDA President Diane von Furstenberg writes on the CFDA site, "Oscar de la Renta was a wonderful designer, a true artist, a Renaissance man. His voice will continue in our hearts, his optimism and love of life inspire us. We will miss him." Von Furstenberg also personally tweeted the tribute from her own account.
In a memorial in the Washington Post, the much-loved fashion critic celebrated De la Renta's astute ability to give women -- all types of women -- exactly what they want to wear. "Oscar de la Renta dressed first ladies in a manner that was both regal and accessible. He provided armor for corporate executives who fought ferocious battles in the boardroom. He gave the titans of society and the ladies who lunch a wardrobe that spoke of old money and noblesse oblige. He dressed movie stars and pop stars -- Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicki Minaj."
"With De la Renta’s death Monday at 82, the fashion industry lost a designer with that rarest gift: He understood the sweet, universal desires of women."
InStyle's fashion news director honored De la Renta with fond memories and smile-inducing anecdotes about the designer's influence on his career. "The first thing Oscar de la Renta ever said to me, some 15 years ago, was this: 'I have the memory of a mosquito,'" Wilson remembers. He credits De la Renta for loving attention, "but he did not flaunt his achievement."
But as everybody knows and appreciates, the designer had no qualms about voicing his opinion. "I have been on the receiving end of a many a phone call from De la Renta, complaining about this or that designer whom he felt was given more importance than him in print, the most recent example of his mischievousness was his criticism of First Lady Michelle Obama for not doing enough to promote American fashion," he writes. Of course, that's not an issue anymore, either, as Obama recently (and finally) donned one of De la Renta's designs for a White House fashion event. Wilson added that the FLOTUS recently told one of his colleagues, "You can’t go wrong with Oscar."
De la Renta's influence, of course, spans the world. "Of all the designers in the world, Oscar de la Renta was the most reliable at designing clothes that made you feel beautiful," says British Vogue Editor in Chief Alexandra Shulman. "He stuck to his conviction about how women should look -- elegant, joyful, feminine -- no matter how fashion changed, but his designs never felt old or hackneyed. If you wore one of Oscar's dresses you felt you looked your best, which is one of the reasons that he was so often a first choice for ball gowns, weddings and public appearances throughout the world."
Legendary supermodel Naomi Campbell remembers the designer as one of the groundbreaking advocates diversity on the runway. "You made this a dream come a true!!" she writes on Instagram, next to an '80s photo of her and Iman on the ODLR runway.
De la Renta's influence also spanned generations, as Karlie Kloss shared on her wide-reaching social media accounts: "The world lost one of the most extraordinary people that I have ever met. Thank you for helping me become the woman I am today and for always inspiring me to be better. There simply is no one else like you."
The Harper's Bazaar editor-in-chief shared these words on the magazine's site: "Fashion, at its best, is about grace. In this way, Oscar de la Renta was fashion. Like his clothes, he was magical. How he will be missed."
Now, Oscar de la Renta was a bi-partisan when it came to dressing First Ladies. His dresses were also a favorite of former first lady Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush wore one of his designs for her husband's 2005 inauguration. (Plus, de la Renta once told WWD that he voted for Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, so there's that.) To honor her friend and designer, Reagan issued this statement: "America has lost a brilliant, enduring talent and a true gentleman. Oscar was a fashion legend but he was also my friend for nearly fifty years. I admired him greatly as a kind, gracious individual with a generous spirit who brought beauty and elegance to everything he touched. My prayers are with Annette and the entire de la Renta family during this time of loss."
Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker supported and collaborated with her good friend Oscar de la Renta both on-screen and off-screen. She loved wearing his designs on the red carpet -- from the Carrie Bradshaw-esque pink feathered ballerina dress to the 2000 Emmys to the ODLR-monogrammed ball gown at this year's Met Gala. And she also immortalized his name on an episode of "Sex and the City" when the Russian gifted Carrie a deep pink cocktail dress to wear to the Met Opera opening -- and a late night snack at McDonald's. SJP issued a statement to "US Weekly" about her friend's passing: "It was an enormous privilege to be dressed by Mr. de la Renta for so many occasions over the last 15 years. And especially meaningful to collaborate with him for this year's Met Gala. I will always be grateful that he allowed me to honor him by embroidering his name in Scarlett on the hem of his glorious dress. He was an inspiration and a man like no other."