By Ann Oldenburg
De la Renta’s health was described earlier this month by the New York Times as “precarious.” He had cancer in 2006, and at his women’s wear show in September looked “frail.”
Known for dressing celebrities, stateswomen and fashionistas of all kinds, de la Renta’s most recent famous moment came when he designed Amal Clooney’s wedding dress just last month.
But the Dominican Republic-born designer, the only son of seven children in a middle-class household in Santo Domingo, really made a name for himself in the 1960s when he dressed Jacqueline Kennedy.
He launched his ready-to-wear label in 1965 in New York.
Along with being a favorite of the Ladies-Who-Lunch crowd, the always tanned and smiling de la Renta was popular on the red carpet. Through the years, his elegant yet showy creations were worn by celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Lea Michele, Jennifer Garner, Sarah Jessica Parker and many more.
Politicos loved him, too. He dressed first lady Nancy Reagan in the 1980s, and provided the gowns for inaugural events for both Hillary Clinton in 1997 and Laura Bush in 2005. Michelle Obama finally wore one of his dresses this month.
Last year, Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Executive Director Fern Mallis called him “the sultan of suave.” At that event, he spoke of his cancer, saying, “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.”
De la Renta was married twice. His first wife, Francoise de Langlade, died in 1983, of bone cancer. Shortly after her death, he adopted a son from orphanage in his native country. In 1989, he married socialite Annette Engelhard Reed, 74.
On Oct. 13, the de la Renta design house announced it had named Peter Copping as creative director.
Gannett News Service