September 2014: Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after his last runway show. (Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty)
Fern Mallis called him the "Sultan of Suave." But after a battle with cancer, legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta died on Monday at the age of 82.
De la Renta was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, yet he recently designed Amal Clooney's wedding dress. His clothes, which were conservative but impeccably constructed, were a favorites of many first ladies, such as Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton (who presented the designer with the CFDA Founder's Award in 2013), Laura Bush. Michelle Obama has also worn de la Renta gowns, although she has also promoted many young American designers with her imprimatur as well.
At the CFDA event, he said: "Yes, I had cancer. Right now, I am totally clean. The only realities in life are that you are born, and that you die. 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."
Born in the Dominican Republic in 1932, de la Renta left home at 18 to study painting in Madrid. It was there he developed a love of fashion design and began an apprenticeship with Cristobal Balenciaga, who became his mentor, and then, landed a job with Lanvin and Balmain in Paris.
He made his name in the early 1960s when first lady Jaqueline Kennedy frequently wore his designs, and launched his own label in the mid-1960s. He was also closely aligned with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, his widow Annette serves on the board, as well as serving on the boards of several other cultural institutions.