De la Renta’s description of the New York fashion scene in the 1960s is similar to where the interior design scene is today. In 1963, when de la Renta moved to New York City, there were few designer names in fashion; most labels were names of manufacturers. “The designers were doing all the work in the back but getting no credit. ... It was a very important transition time when the designers, the creators came into their own,” he said.
His previous experience working for Cristóbal Balenciaga in Paris may have given him the idea that designers should lead brands. Boldly, he made a caveat with his second New York employer, Jane Derby (Miss D), was that his name be on the label—and bigger than hers if he was designing the clothes. When she passed away three years later, the label became Oscar de la Renta.
On the subject of brand, it was extremely important to him that the Oscar de la Renta name live on. DLN member and Atlanta-based designer Stan Topol commented that there’s too much urgency for young designers to build their own brand and not to learn from people who are the best in their field. To that, de la Renta said, “If your mark is strong, then people will follow."
LA-based DLN member and designer Madeleine Stuart asked if the rise of celebrity designers putting their names on clothes as if they were designers exasperated him—to which, he replied: “Competition is important, and the more the merrier. But by hell, kill ’em!”
While there are numerous parallels between fashion and home, ultimately, the two worlds are very different. Unlike fashion, you can’t design a home to be trendy, because a person needs to live there for a very long time. “The most extraordinary thing you can have is a home that you love,” he said, and that takes time.
Listen to the full interview here: