The Oscar de la Renta Interview
Oscar de la Renta may have been born in the Dominican Republic but he made his mark in America becoming one of the best-loved and respected fashion designers. His legacy continues today under the direction of co-creative directors, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia who are dressing the likes of Taylor Swift, Laura Dern and Aerin Lauder.
An enthusiastic and talented gardener, perfume was hugely important to him. His signature scent, launched in 1977, remains a bestseller to this day thanks to its grand floral character and chic personality – just like one of his famous ballgowns. Oscar is an amber-floral scent for her that blends notes of gardenia, orange blossom, peach, basil, clove, bergamot, tuberose, ylang-ylang, lavender, iris, jasmine, rosemary, rose, orchid, myrrh, sandalwood, amber, vetiver, musk, patchouli and a hint of coconut. It’s a layered and complex scent composed by perfumer Jean-Louis Sieuzac. It won a FiFi award in 1978, the Academy Awards of the fragrance industry.
Oscar had a deep love of Canada. He did an extensive Canadian tour each year where he hosted elaborate breakfast events for the men and women who sold his fragrances in store. He’d personally thank each one, pose for photos and gift them a bottle. In fact, these events became so important to the designer, he refused to meet with store executives until he had met all the sales teams.
Scent Lodge honours Mr. de la Renta with this exclusive interview in his own words.
The Oscar de la Renta Interview:
I have never worked as hard in my life as I do now, but I am loving every minute of it. My best times are when I am in my studio designing. I usually arrive at the studio around 9:30 am and work through until 6:30 or 7. I’m very disciplined when it comes to designing.
When I introduced my first fragrance called OSCAR in 1977, I never for a second imagined it would become so successful. I thought it might be nice if some customers liked it. But I had no idea that it would be cherished by so many women around the world.
I have a scent garden at the entrance of my home in the Dominican. I have a pair of Night-Blooming Jasmine plants that aren’t pretty. But after dark, they reveal the most beautiful scent.
When I launched my fashion house in 1963, a woman had to ask her husband, “Can I buy this dress?” Today, a woman is in total control of her destiny. She’s able to use her power of femininity as a tremendous asset in life. She uses clothes and fragrance to make herself feel great. The 21st century belongs to women. I truly believe that.
We tend to live life like we will live forever. But when you face an obstacle in life, you learn that every single day is an important one. You must live life to the fullest now.
I don’t believe in a fragrance wardrobe. I want to be able to recognize a woman from her smell. I think every woman should have a signature fragrance that she loves and makes her feel good. I think of perfume as an invisible dress.
The best gifts are those that are least-expected and most thoughtful. I value a gift that someone has put a lot of thought into. Ana Wintour, my close friend, gave me a very special present recently for my birthday. She spent four months researching every single photo of my clothes that have ever been featured in Vogue. She created a leather-bound book and included letters from my wife, Senator Clinton, Sarah Jessica Parker and Penelope Cruz. I cried reading the whole thing. It is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
I love to grow peaches in my garden. But I noticed some animal was eating them all. So I set up a camera and took pictures at night recently. It turns out five very fat raccoons had been eating all my peaches.
Oscar de la Renta 101
- born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
- Studied art at Madrid’s Academy of San Fernando and soon started sketching for leading Spanish fashion houses.
- Apprenticed with Cristobal Balenciaga then moved to Paris where he became a couture assistant at Lanvin.
- At the advice of Vogue Editor Diana Vreeland, de la Renta joined Elizabeth Arden in 1963 where he designed custom clothing.
- He launched his own line in 1965 in New York.
- His clients included Penelope Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Walters, Nancy Regan and Laura Bush.
- In 1977, the designer introduced his signature scent, OSCAR. It continues to be a bestseller in over 70 countries including Canada.
- Oscar was awarded the Council of Fashion Designers Designer of the Year Award in 2000 and 2007. In 1990, he received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
- He served as a board member of Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera and the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute.
- Today, Oscar de la Renta is recognized as one of America’s iconic fashion designers.
- Oscar sadly passed away on October 20th, 2014. His fashion house and legacy continues today under the stewardship of co-creative directors Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia
Oscar is an amber-floral scent for her that blends notes of gardenia, orange blossom, peach, basil, clove, bergamot, tuberose, ylang-ylang, lavender, iris, jasmine, rosemary, rose, orchid, myrrh, sandalwood, amber, vetiver, musk, patchouli and coconut.
Oscar de la Renta Signature Fragrance is available at Hudson’s Bay stores, thebay.com, Shoppers Drug Mart stores and shoppersdrugmart.ca
Jamie JohnsonJuly 7, 2021 at 1:31 pm
Total class act! Great piece!!
Liz HowardJuly 5, 2021 at 11:10 pm
Such a great interview, I loved the part of the fat raccoons!!
Rhonda LushingtonJuly 5, 2021 at 10:35 am
Oscar always reminds me of my mother. She owned every fragrance Oscar had. I always loved the dusting powder in his iconic fragrance 💕
LInda LJuly 4, 2021 at 1:16 pm
Dave, a wonderful interview with one of the greats! Oscar de la Renta was a class act! @linlett60
Janet MoultonJuly 2, 2021 at 3:26 am
I’ve never ever tried Oscar de la Renta in any form. I see Hudson Bay and shoppers have the Oscar de la Renta perfumed dusting powder, but where would you get the Oscar de la Renta perfumed deodorant, I love to try it.
Angela CitrignoJuly 1, 2021 at 7:37 pm
Wonderful tribute to Oscar de la Renta. I really enjoy reading this article. He was so many talented. The gowns that he designed were always so glamourous and classic. Dave, I remember you mentioning you had homemade ice cream made by Oscar too. To have spent an afternoon in those amazing gardens and to hear Oscar talk about his passions in life. How lucky were you? I would love to have been able to see that leather bond book from Ana Wintour. What a gift!
Marla VeisJuly 1, 2021 at 2:25 pm
As always Dave you continue to delight me with Scentlodge, l so enjoy reading all your articles. A colleague of mine dome years ago met Oscar in New York and said that he was such a nice man. I was at a Guerlain training and was told that he had specially made a perfume for Napoleon’s wife to help with her headaches and that he also was a perfumer to Napoleon.
Roberta MacQuarrieJuly 1, 2021 at 11:54 am
Oscar de la Renta was a wonderful human being. I don’t think his fame ever went to his head. His gown designs made me swoon- so romantic and classic. Of course I could never afford them, but I love his perfume. Thank you for this article.
September DeeJuly 1, 2021 at 10:38 am
This article is a beautiful tribute to a great man. The photos and his drawings are lovely. What a thrill it must have been for you to meet him! I remember the first time I bought Oscar and the scent made me feel money grown up and glamorous. I still have the mini bottle that vase with the purchase. It is a little treasure!
Pam coxJuly 1, 2021 at 7:21 am
This was a wonderful interview and read. I really enjoyed this
LisaJune 29, 2021 at 1:44 pm
Oh my gosh… I want to see his video of raccoons eating his peaches!! It’s kind of funny to think that these things happen to everyone – even celebrities!