Oscar de la Renta (1932-2014) became one of the leading names in fashion at a time when the industry was going through major change. The industry itself was born not much more than a century earlier, and had already changed the way people around the world thought about clothing.
English-born Charles Frederick Worth is often considered to be the first modern clothing designer. Before him, clothes were made by anonymous dressmakers and based on the styles worn by royalty. But that changed in 1826 when Worth, a former draper, moved to Paris and opened his own style house. He was the first designer to have his label sewn into his creations and the first to suggest what people should wear and what styles would suit them best. This marked the start of the modern apparel industry, and soon, many other design houses opened in Paris, making the French city the epicenter of fashion.
While garment trends evolved with the times, Paris remained the world’s clothing capital for decades. That all changed in the mid-1900s when a new group of American designers, including de la Renta, emerged. Their designs reflected the needs and attitudes of American women. These fresh, new perspectives were a hit in America and abroad. Soon, the U.S. had its own thriving design industry, with New York City becoming one of the world’s top apparel centers.
De la Renta helped America earn a top spot on the world’s apparel stage. His elegant designs were worn by fashion-forward women around the world and were some of the most in-demand of their time.