Remebering a Legend : One on One with Oscar de la Renta
Late last night while punching away at my computer (and simultaneously watching a re-run of 24), I received a tweet from @MBDinBHAM mentioning my 2011 interview with Oscar de la Renta:
“Thinking of @ItsBrieW @CarolinaSTYLEM interview w/#Oscar de la Renta & how he wanted to say thanks to counter girls @Belk GENT @brookecain”.
I was honored she would be inspired to tweet about the interview but shortly after learned the trip down memory lane was kindled by the news of his passing. On Monday, October 20, 2014 Oscar de la Renta lost his battle to cancer at the age of 82.
In honor of his extraordinary contribution to the fashion world, I wanted to share my one on one interview with the beloved designer during his visit to Charlotte. We met in the personal styling area at Belk Southpark where he openly discussed his love for his customer, serenaded me with his hidden talent and became the first legend to sign my leather Tiffany & Co. journal (still only three people have signed the book to date).
Our purpose in meeting was to discuss this icon’s new fragrance, but instead I spent more time learning and writing about an incredibly humble human being – a gentleman.
Oscar de la Renta, you will truly be missed.
It’s not every day that you’re able to talk to a legend.
Oscar de la Renta, legendary designer, visited Charlotte and showcased some of his designs at the Mint Museum Room to Bloom Celebration. After a fantastic night of fashion and beauty, he took the time out of his morning to meet with me the next day to discuss his new fragrance, Esprit d’Oscar, debuting at Belk.
I was prepared to talk about his years as a designer, but what caught my attention is the reputation that preceded him. Word was spreading fast that Oscar de la Renta greeted each of the talented Charlotte – based artists who worked on his show at the Mint. I was also told that the morning of our interview, he wanted to meet and thank the sales associates at Belk who are on the front lines selling his perfume.
The Esprit d’Oscar scent filled the meeting room and instantly, I became a fan of the fragrance. A gentleman, he stood from his chair to greet me. Complimenting him on the job well done creating his new fragrance he told me he hoped I’d make it my signature fragrance, wearing nothing else.
“We have a misconception about fragrances. We don’t change our face, why change our fragrance?”
I never thought about perfume this way, but it makes sense. How does he know this? How does he stay so in touch with his customer?
“By keeping my eyes open, by understanding her lifestyle and her aspirations.”
In an industry dominated by dictation, a man who has been designing clothes for his self-titled empire since 1965 still has the desire to be open-minded and listen to his customer creating what they want and need rather than what he wishes for them to have. Many could argue he is well within his right to be one of the great dictators of fashion today. He’s won more awards than you can count and has accomplished a level of success that most of us still dream. Yet, even his biggest accomplishment is customer focused.
“Making the woman dream,” he says is his biggest accomplishment to date.
His clothes have been worn by Mrs. Regan, Mrs. Clinton, Mrs. Bush, as well as our favorite celebrities. But his choice of the woman who influences fashion today may surprise you.
“Back in the 50‘s and 60‘s the movie stars influenced fashion. Today, it’s the consumer who influences fashion. Today a woman knows her power. She knows what’s most important, to project herself, love life and who you are.”
Without hesitation he tells that he loves life and loves living. He also enjoys designing and will only stop doing it when he looses the passion.
“It’s only work, when you feel that you have to do it, but when you do it because you have the passion for what you are doing, love to do it, then it’s no longer work. Every day there is a new learning process, new challenge, new mission.”
So if he technically “works” for fun, then what does he do when he stops to smell the roses? He loves to read and believe it or not he is a very talented singer.
Excuse me if I boast just for a moment, but I had the honor of a brief serenade by a living legend:
“For all the girls I love before,
That travel in and out my life,
I’m glad they came along
I dedicate this song,
to all the girls I love before”
It’s only natural, yet competitively unfair that someone as talented as he would also be talented at other things too. But creativity is something that he doesn’t try to do.
“It just happens, I work in my [design] studio and I have a lot of very young talented people who challenge me on a daily basis. I challenge them to produce and I produce.”
“Do you love what you do?” I asked.
“You have to love what you are doing. To me, that is the most important thing. I open my window in the morning and look at the people.”
“Inspired by life?”
“Absolutely, ” Oscar de la Renta concluded reassuringly.
I'm the Editor-in-Chief of this fab magazine! I write about fashion, travel entertainment and more. Follow me on social media @ItsBrieW and be the first to know when my personal blog goes live in October.