Oscar de la Renta did something revolutionary: he made high-fashion evening gowns for women they could actually wear for an entire evening. For that reason alone, he deserves all possible accolades — but more, he was "timeless," in the words of Barbara Bundy, the vice president for education at Los Angeles's Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.
"He is truly the difference between fad and fashion," Bundy said. "He was truly fashion, because his style endured for many, many years. It's hard to date many of his pieces."
De la Renta's death Monday at the age of 82 brought memories and tears at FIDM when the bad news arrived. FIDM curator Kevin Jones remembers that, when he was working on a documentary recently, de la Renta delayed a flight back to Europe so he could sit for an interview with Jones. Jones oversees FIDM's vast garment collection, including many de la Renta pieces.
"He could design anything from a swimsuit you could wear on the Riviera all the way to a red carpet gown, and it would translate perfectly," Jones said. "It was always clean and bold in its statement, through silhouette and color."
Like the gown Sarah Jessica Parker famously wore to the Met gala:
(Sarah Jessica Parker in her Oscar de la Renta gown at the "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2014 in New York City. Photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
FIDM fashion student Vanessa Puccini, a Colombian, takes great inspiration from de la Renta's designs, but she began crying Tuesday when talking about his death for a different reason: de la Renta was a Dominican.
"Personally he inspired me to be proud of where I am," she said, her voice breaking and tears flowing. "And it's hard for Hispanics to be proud. He told me 'be proud of where you're from; don't ever change that.'"