A favorite among celebrities and First Ladies, the "sultan of suave" died after TK

By Suzanne Zuckerman
Updated April 23, 2012 01:00 PM
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Credit: John Parra/WireImage

Oscar de la Renta, the debonair designer beloved by A-listers and First Ladies alike, died WHENTK from WHATTK. He was 79. (HE’LL BE 80 IN JULY)

STATEMENT FROM FAMILY TK

Since the launch of his label in 1965, de la Renta’s lavish gowns were a hit with American icons from Jackie Kennedy to Oprah Winfrey. He formed a 30-year friendship with Nancy Reagan and outfitted both Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush for their husbands’ inaugural balls.

But nowhere was de la Renta more embraced than in Hollywood, where the designer – once dubbed “the sultan of suave” – created gowns that he liked to call “dreamy fantasies” for Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Hudson and Penélope Cruz.

“He’s extraordinarily gifted,” Sarah Jessica Parker once said. “When you have that kind of technical skill and innate talent, you’re going to be modern.”

Humble Beginnings

Born Oscar Aristides Renta in 1932 and raised with six sisters in the Dominican Republic, he moved to Madrid at 18 to study painting. There, he sold his sketches to famed couturier Cristobal Balenciaga and went on to assist Lanvin’s Antonio Castillo in Paris.

Arriving in New York in 1963, the designer quickly alighted to the top of high society, alongside his wife, French Vogue editor Francoise de Langlade.

After his wife passed away from bone cancer in 1983, de la Renta adopted a son, Moises, from his native Dominican Republic.

Besides Moises, now 27 and a designer of his own clothing line, de la Renta is survived by his second wife, Annette, stepdaughter Eliza Bolen (the design house’s Creative Director of Licensing), her husband, company CEO Alex Bolen.