San Francisco lost a fine feathered friend with the passing of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta. A longtime favorite of our most-photographed ladies, wearing Oscar was seen as always appropriate, elegant, and festive – words that could equally be used to describe the debonair designer himself. Making an annual pilgrimage to see his collections at the Save the Lake fashion show in Lake Tahoe had become a ritual for many of his fans, who eagerly ordered up his fanciest frocks for Opera, Ballet, and Sympony openings, and treasured their post-show photo ops with the fine gentleman himself.
Much has been made of de la Renta’s trajectory as an illustrator from the Dominican Republic to an assistant in Cristobal Balenciaga’s atelier, and then as a designer for Elizabeth Arden in New York, Balmain in Paris, and his own storied empire of clothing, perfumes and accessories. San Francisco loves a success story, and de la Renta was a success of the highest order, building a brand beloved by our local lofty ladies, who proudly wore his sumptuous satins and comme-il-faut cashmeres in the good company of notable brides, first ladies, and royals. But San Francisco was even more enamored of the man himself, whose unfailing good manners, and self-effacing charm were as recognizable as his princess-cut silhouettes and the distinctively looping signature which graced his labels. “The qualities I most admire in women are confidence and kindness,” he once was quoted as saying, characteristics for which he himself was beloved. Somewhere in heaven, the angels are trying on their new gorgeously embroidered rustling taffeta wings.