Oscar de la Renta
By Jennifer Park, Molly Sorkin, and André Leon Talley
Published on the occasion of a major retrospective exhibition at the de Young, Oscar de la Renta is the first historical survey of the designer’s illustrious career, which spanned more than five decades and two continents. Oscar de la Renta (American, b. Dominican Republic, 1932–2014) dressed women for all facets of life, from day to evening, and his work is admired by generations of the world’s most discerning arbiters of style. His clothes are renowned for their modern sensibility, romantic artistry, and impeccable workmanship that elevate his designs to the highest tier of international fashion.
De la Renta applied sumptuous textiles and intricate embellishments and embroideries to his fashions, often drawing inspiration from European history. He referenced both the extravagant court of eighteenth-century France through his use of resplendent floral brocades, and the imposing legacy of the Golden Age of Spanish art with designs exemplifying the exaggerated dress silhouettes found in its royal portraiture. Moreover, throughout his career de la Renta looked to the art of diverse cultures to feed his imagination, including the embroideries of Chinese and Indian textiles, complex ikat patterns of Uzbek and Kazakh cloths, colorful Japanese woodblock prints, and opulent fabrics and ornamentation found in traditional Russian dress. He also understood the clothing needs of contemporary women, from First Ladies to socialites and from Hollywood stars to fashion insiders, and he dressed his multigenerational list of clients in elegant daywear and stunning evening gowns.
Three essays contextualize the designer’s achievement through the latter part of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Molly Sorkin traces Oscar de la Renta’s life and how it influenced his artistic output. Jennifer Park reveals the designer’s influence on fashion photography and the modern woman. And André Leon Talley shares personal glimpses into his working relationship and friendship with the artist.
Oscar de la Renta further outlines the major themes of the designer’s career through a lavish gallery of images drawn from the designer’s sketches, documents from the Oscar de la Renta archives, runway and backstage shots, and photography from fashion magazines, including works by Richard Avedon, Patrick Demarchelier, Arthur Elgort, Annie Leibovitz, Craig McDean, Steven Meisel, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Mario Testino, and Bruce Weber. Featuring exemplary garments from throughout the artist’s oeuvre, this volume offers copious views into Oscar de la Renta’s process, art, and career.
Jennifer Park is a fashion historian. She is a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion, coauthor of Gothic: Dark Glamour, and coeditor of Fortuny y Madrazo: An Artistic Legacy. She cocurated the exhibitions Oscar de la Renta: American Icon (2013) at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style (2014) at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
Molly Sorkin is a fashion historian. She is the coeditor of Joaquín Sorolla and the Glory of Spanish Dress and Fortuny y Madrazo: An Artistic Legacy, and a contributor to Grove Art Online (Oxford University Press). She cocurated the exhibitions Oscar de la Renta: American Icon (2013) at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Oscar de la Renta: Five Decades of Style (2014) at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
André Leon Talley is contributing editor to Vogue and host of Vogue’s podcast. He is a recipient of the Eugenia Sheppard Award for Excellence in Fashion Journalism by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). He is the author of several books, including A.L.T.: A Memoir, Little Black Dress, Valentino: At the Emperor’s Table, and Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style.