Oscar de la Renta, the prolific American designer, has died. He was 82-years-old.
De la Renta had appointed Peter Copping as Creative Director of his eponymous brand just last week. The designer had been battling cancer since 2006, although his cause of death is not immediately known.
De la Renta died at his home surrounded by family and “more than a few dogs,” according to a handwritten statement given to The Associated Press and signed by his stepdaughter Eliza Reed Bolen and her husband, Alex Bolen, also the CEO of Oscar de la Renta.
“While our hearts are broken by the idea of life without Oscar, he is still very much with us. Oscar’s hard work, his intelligence and his love of life are at the heart of our company,” reads the statement. “All that we have done, and all that we will do, is informed by his values and his spirit.”
As of Tuesday morning, Oscar de la Renta’s homepage features a handwritten note from Eliza and Alex. It reads, in part, “He died exactly as he lived: with tremendous grace, great dignity and very much on his own terms.”
And live he did. In a career that spanned some 50-plus years, de la Renta dressed everyone from first ladies to virtually every celebrity. Human rights lawyer and activist Amal Clooney donned a truly spectacular de la Renta gown when she married actor George Clooney last month.
Graced with an indefatigable charm, the designer was known for his feminine, romantic frocks. His confections were a throwback to a different, more glamorous era — much like the designer himself.
“The only realities in life are that you are born, and that you die,” de la Renta said at 92Y in June 2013. “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.”
De la Renta was born in the Dominican Republic on July 22, 1932, as one of seven children. He left at 18 to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, but soon realized fashion was his true passion. He held an apprenticeship with Cristóbal Balenciaga, and then became an assistant at Lanvin in Paris.
With a desire to create his own line, he moved to New York in 1963 and worked for the American design house Elizabeth Arden. It was also around this time that he met his future first wife, the late Françoise de Langlade, then fashion editor of French Vogue. In 1965 he left Arden — under the advice of American Vogue editor, Diana Vreeland – to work for Jane Derby and launched his own ready-to-wear label. He also designed the couture collections for the French house Balmain from 1993 to 2002, the first American to head a French couture house.
But de la Renta rose to prominence after dressing then-First Lady Jacquelyn Kennedy. Since then, his gowns have become red carpet mainstays, synonymous with glamour and high society. He has dressed every First Lady since Jackie Kennedy.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Oscar de la Renta. His singular talent and exquisite taste elevated American fashion, and his warmth and friendship will be missed by our family and all whose lives he touched in his extraordinary journey,” Hillary and Bill Clinton said in a joint statement. The former First Lady wore a de la Renta dress to her husband’s second inaugural ball, and the family has remained close with the designer.
In fact, it was de la Renta who designed many of Clinton’s famous pastel-colored pantsuits. ”This man has been working for more than 20 years to turn me into a fashion icon,” Clinton joked last year while presenting de la Renta with the Medal of Excellence.
Former First Lady Laura Bush also wore an Oscar gown to her husband’s second inaugural festivities, and Jenna Bush donned one of the designer’s gowns on her wedding day in 2008.
“We will miss Oscar’s generous and warm personality, his charm, and his wonderful talents,” Bush said in a statement. “We will always remember him as the man who made women look and feel beautiful.”
It was he and his contemporaries — Halston, Bill Blass, among others — who defined American style in the 60s and 70s, paving a way for future American designers to be taken seriously among the couture houses of Europe. He was known for his liberal deployment of taffeta and never shied away from bright, vibrant colors and voluminous skirts in his evening wear collections.
“There is no sound more feminine than a woman in a taffeta dress,” he once said.
After the launch of his ready to wear line, de la Renta soon expanded into fragrance, a home collection and furniture, and is also known for those chic pantsuits.
“The fashion business says goodbye to a mentor, a legand (sic) & an icon,” designer Kenneth Cole tweeted Monday night. “He defined a standard we can only aspire to.”
“My all-time favorite designer has passed away. Oscar, it was an honor to wear your creations and to know you. In loving memory,” tweeted Taylor Swift.
De la Renta and de Langlade were fixtures of the New York social scene in the 60s and 70s, famously hosting boisterous parties full of the Who’s Who of the city, until her death in 1983 of bone cancer. He married Annette Engelhard Reed in 1989.
The designer served as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 1973 to 1976, and again from 1986 to 1988. He has won countless design awards, including the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. In July, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas held a retrospective titled “Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style,” to explore the designer’s “significant career from its origins to his most recent runway and red-carpet masterpieces.”
“I have always felt my role as a designer is to do the very best I can for a woman to make her look her best. Fashion is only fashion once a woman puts it on,” he said.
De la Renta is survived by his wife, Annette, and adopted son, Moises.
This post has been updated from its original version.http://www.forbes.com/sites/aliciaadamczyk/2014/10/20/prolific-designer-oscar-de-la-renta-dies-at-82/