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7 Little-Known Facts About Oscar de la Renta

A mountain of articles has been written about the legendary fashion designer, yet there are still many facts about Oscar de la Renta that might surprise you.

A mountain of articles has been written about the legendary fashion designer, yet there are still many facts about Oscar de la Renta that might surprise you. Today, we bring you seven little-known facts about the Dominican Republic-born designer who became one of the most sought-after names in haute couture history.


1. The Most Beautiful Beginning 


At 18 years of age Oscar de la Renta enrolled to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. While living in Spain, he became interested in the world of design and began sketching for leading Spanish fashion houses, which soon led to an apprenticeship with Spain’s most renowned couturier, Cristobal Balenciago.


Later, Oscar de la Renta left Spain to join Antonio Castillo as a couture assistant at the house of Lanvin in Paris. Then in 1963, he came to New York to design the couture collection for Elizabeth Arden, and just two years later launched his signature ready-to-wear label.


2. Grieving Widow 

Most of us know that De la Renta was married for a quarter of a century to Annette Engelhard before he passed away in 2014. But not many know that De la Renta was a widow for six years before tying the knot again. His first wife of 16 years, Françoise de Langlade, died of bone cancer, leaving the designer’s heart overwhelmed with grief.  


3. “Flowers That Don’t Smell Are Truly Sad”


Oscar de la Renta launched his first perfume, Oscar, in 1977. This is a classic, floral, slightly sharp perfume of aromatic notes of lavender, rosemary and carnation, with sweet, powdery, musky base notes. The top notes include orange blossom, basil, coriander, galbanum, peach and gardenia. The perfume is still a best-seller in the luxurious world of sophisticated aromas.


2002 marks the debut of Intrusion, the latest Oscar de la Renta fragrance for women. 



4. A Recipient of the Living Legend Award

In 1995, Oscar de la Renta was the recipient of the Living Legend Award from the American Society of Perfumes. In the fall of 1999, Oscar de la Renta introduced Oscar for Men.


Oscar de la Renta’s talents receive continual international recognition. Among many other honors, Oscar de la Renta received the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Womenswear Designer of the Year Award in 2000. In February 1990, he was honored with the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award.


From 1973 to 1976, and from 1986 to 1988, Oscar de la Renta served as President of the CFDA. He is also a two-time winner of the Coty American Fashion Critics Award and was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame in 1973.



5. The First American to Design for a French Couture House

With his spring 1993 collection for the house of Pierre Balmain, Oscar de la Renta became the first American to design for a French couture house and has been awarded the French Legion d’Honneur as a Commandeur.


6. Grand Marshall of New York City’s Hispanic Day Parade


Oscar de la Renta helped build a much needed school and day-care center in the Dominican Republic for 1,200 children and The Dominican Republic honored its best known native son as one of its most distinguished citizens with the order al Mérito de Juan Pablo Duarte and the order of Cristobal Colon. 


In 1996, Mr. de la Renta received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic Heritage Society and in 2000 he marched down Fifth Avenue as Grand Marshall of New York City’s Hispanic Day Parade.

7. No Effort Is Too Big to Preserve Classic Arts


Oscar de la Renta was a tireless patron of the arts. He served as a board member of The Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, and Channel Thirteen/WNET. He was also on the boards of important cultural institutions such as New Yorkers for Children, the American Society, and the Spanish Institute.