Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta dies at 82 – CBS News

Oscar de la Renta, whose fashion designs were worn by film stars and royal figures died Monday night. He was 82.

De la Renta died at home Monday evening in Connecticut surrounded by family and friends and “more than a few dogs,” according to a handwritten statement signed by two of his company’s executives, Alex Bolen and Eliza Bolen. A family member confirmed to CBS News that de la Renta died peacefully at 7:40 p.m.

He was a fashion giant whose designs became a standard of elegance. Widely called “the sultan of chic,”his clothes became the garments of choice for some of the best dressed and most beautiful women in the world.

“The most important thing about fashion is to have the memory of a mosquito. Don’t ever look back; always look forward,” he told Gotham magazine in an interview. “You are as good as your last collection. “

An industry icon, de la Renta spent five decades dressing the world’s most regal women. Known for designs that graced the figures of the fabulous, he was especially known in America for dresses worn by First Ladies Nancy Reagan, and also inaugural gowns worn by Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

Born in the Dominican Republic, he left when he was 18 for Spain to study painting at Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. Soon he became interested in fashion design and became an apprentice to Cristobal Balenciaga, founder of the Balenciaga fashion house.

By the early 1960s, he moved to New York and began work with the Elizabeth Arden fashion house and in 1965 he ventured out and started his own label.

The late ’60s and early ’70s were a defining moment in U.S. fashion as New York-based designers finally carved a look of their own that was finally taken seriously by Europeans. De la Renta and his peers, including the late Bill Blass, Roy Halston and Geoffrey Beene, defined American style – and their influence is still spotted today.

His notoriety for dressing the rich and famous reached the White House when he first dressed Jaqueline Kennedy, then later Betty Ford, eventually becoming a favorite of First Ladies. Some of his works were featured at the Clinton Presisdential Library in Arkansas.

When presenting him with Carnegie Hall’s Medal of Excellence earlier this year, Hillary Clinton joked about his ability for grace and style.

“This man has been working for more than 20 years to turn me into a fashion icon … despite his best efforts,” she said.

One first lady that he always wanted to dress was Michelle Obama.

“I would love to dress Mrs. Obama,” he said on “CBS This Morning” last year. “I think she’s a very stylish lady…only in this country we pay so much attention to what the First Lady wears.”

De la Renta also was well known for his designed aimed at younger women as well. In fact, one of his most famous pieces was the focal point of an episode of “Sex in the City.”

He served twice as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 1973 to 1976, and from 1986 to 1988.

The fashion world sent out its thanks to de la Renta for his powerful influence.

De la Renta was married twice. In 1967, he married Francoise de Langlade, editor-in-chief of French Vogue. She died in 1983 of bone cancer.

Soon after , he adopted a son he found in an orphanage in his native Dominican Republic. De la Renta married in 1990 for the second time, to philanthropist Annette Engelhard Reed.

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