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Oscar de la Renta

Updated: Mar 27

Oscar de la Renta's Garden at His House in the Dominican Republic
Oscar de la Renta's Garden at His House in the Dominican Republic

Because Dominica Republic is a country still struggling from the effects of brutal colonialism, I become inspired when I come across anything highlighting the artistic and scholarly creations originating from the Dominican Republic-- one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Oscar de la Renta, a Dominican and one of the most iconic fashion designers of all time who catapulted his career while at Balmain and had no hesitations with using women of color on the runway.

Oscar de la Renta uses women of color on the runway.
Fall 1982 runway models: Oscar de la Renta archive, Oscar de la Renta exhibition catalog, page 161.

His eponymous fashion house, established in 1965, became synonymous with timeless sophistication and impeccable craftsmanship. De la Renta's designs have been worn by numerous First Ladies, celebrities, and royalty, cementing his status as one of the most influential fashion designers of his time. His brand encompassed (and still does to this day, even after his passing) a wide range of products, including ready-to-wear clothing, accessories, bridal wear, and fragrances. Famously know for his eveningwear and women's suits, he was the culmination of elegance in all regard.

Bethann Hardison (who is trailblazing herself) was regarded as one of the guiding forces behind the supermodels who dominated the '90s, and she attributed part of her ascent to fame to Oscar de la Renta.

Hardison once told NPR:

"He had no fear of using girls who were very ethnic or very dark," she said. "A lot of designers don't do that. Oscar could go the gamut — he could go for someone who was peachy blonde to someone who was a redhead to someone who was extremely dark. If he thought the girl was a new girl in town or he thought the girl would look great in his clothes, he booked her."

Oscar de la Renta visiting El Hogar de Los Ninos
Oscar de la Renta visiting El Hogar de Los Ninos. Image from Casa de Campo Living.

In addition to his illustrious career in fashion, Oscar de la Renta was also a philanthropist and humanitarian who supported various charitable causes. He was actively involved in initiatives that focused on education, healthcare, and cultural preservation, particularly in the Dominican Republic and throughout Latin America. He built La Casa del Nino, which is an orphanage and school for the children of La Romana. Today, the Hogar del Niño is not only the largest child care and education center in the Dominican Republic, it is also leading the way for other similar institutions. He was a big proponent of education in the Dominican Republic and helped construct two major institutions (one in Punta Cana and one in La Romana) who have a combined enrollment of over 1,500 students and include classes for children who have special needs and for blind and deaf-mute children.

Jackie Kennedy wearing Oscar de la Renta in 1962.
Jackie Kennedy wearing Oscar de la Renta in 1962.

Oscar de la Renta sadly passed away from complications of cancer on October 20, 2014 in his home located in Kent, Connecticut. His influence, however, carries on far beyond the fashion industry, and his dedication to philanthropy and humanitarian causes highlighted his desire to make a positive impact on society. He remains a beloved and iconic figure in the fashion world, celebrated for his talent, creativity, and generosity.