Oscar de la Renta’s Legacy


Oscar de la Renta in September 2014 at the close of his Spring/Summer 2015 fashion show

At 82, it’s difficult to describe a death as surprising. Yet that was the feeling after it was announced that fashion designer Oscar de la Renta had died.

Just over a month ago, de la Renta made his appearance at the close of his Spring/Summer 2015 fashion show, looking as vibrant as the dresses which preceded him. In an even more recent photo with Amal Alamuddin, who wore an Oscar de la Renta bridal gown to marry George Clooney, the designer sits at a workbench while the bride’s dress is fitted. Though he isn’t the primary subject of the photo, his presence can’t be missed.

An active designer for more than 60 years, de la Renta’s namesake label has existed for almost 50. Long associated with “ladies who lunch,” (a term the designer reportedly disliked) and first ladies on both sides of the aisle, one of the most remarkable aspects of the brand is the way it resonates with the selfie generation. An Instagram picture posted by Karlie Kloss with the designer in September garnered more than 38,000 likes, and de la Renta’s collections were often some of the most organically shared on social media.

While his credentials as a creative were well established through couture shows in Paris, and decades of patronage from socialites and celebrities, it’s the continued relevance and inspiration for a generation which sets de la Renta apart. The internet and social media have pushed fashion to go at a pace unlike any in its history, and it’s no small task just to keep up.

It’s no longer enough to impress a select group of editors and buyers, because now consumers have the same level of access. Fashion houses established well before de la Renta’s have struggled to adapt, often bearing heritage as a hindrance to progress.

At 82, Oscar de la Renta battled cancer for 8 years, was a design legend and still very relevant to an industry that saw numerous changes from the time he started in it. Surviving cancer is no small feat, but accomplishing the latter two couldn’t have been much easier.

“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.” – Oscar de la Renta in 2013

As someone who defied the odds and challenged the norms until the very end, perhaps that’s why it’s a loss that still feels a bit unexpected, even if not a surprise.

Image via Style.com

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