Oscar de la Renta, designer to the stars, dies at 82

Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta poses at The Colleagues 22nd Annual Spring Luncheon in Beverly Hills, California April 12, 2011. The Colleagues is a non-profit corporation that raises funds to benefit Children's Institute, Inc. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT FASHION)

Designer Oscar de la Renta has died at aged 82 at his Connecticut home. His death was confirmed by wife, Annette, to US newspapers late Monday, and understood to be due to complications from cancer, first diagnosed in 2006. Designer to first ladies and Hollywood stars, last night peers, models and celebrities paid tribute to the man who helped lead American fashion in the late 1960s.

Designer Marc Jacobs wrote: “We lost a fashion icon. Thoughts & prayers for family, friends, & all at Oscar de la Renta. We’ll miss you Oscar!”

Former first lady Bush said she and her husband, George W Bush, were “deeply saddened” by his death, saying he had designed the favourite clothes of her and her twin daughters.

De la Renta’s speciality was eveningwear, though he also was known for daytime suits favoured by the ladies who lunch. His signature looks were voluminous skirts, embroideries and rich colours.

Most recently, he designed the wedding dress for human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, who married George Clooney in Venice last month.

Born on July 22 1932 a native of the Dominican Republic, he left to study painting in Spain, aged 18. While there he soon became sidetracked by fashion. The wife of the US Ambassador saw some of his sketches and asked him to make a dress for her daughter which appeared on the cover of Life magazine.

That led to an apprenticeship with Cristobal Balenciaga, and then de la Renta moved to France to work for couture house Lanvin. By 1963, he was working for Elizabeth Arden couture in New York.

In 1965 he launched his own label becoming internationally known as one of the couturiers to dress then US first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. Following first ladies he dressed also included Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

His red carpet outfits for premieres and award ceremonies were worn by Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, among many others.

His business grew into a multi-million-dollar empire that included ready-to-wear, fragrances, a home line and a bridal collection, which he launched in 2006.

His career spanned over five decades and was twice president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and honoured with a string of awards.

Lizzy Bowring, head of WGSN catwalks, said: “Viewed as an icon, Oscar de la Renta was always relevant… his beautiful creations made women feel that so much more special and embodied all that was feminine. His attention to detail, the exquisite embroideries, the selection of luxurious fabrics and the superb cut, there are very few master craftsmen left in the world of fashion.”

Earlier this month, his luxury brand announced that UK-born designer Peter Copping would take over as creative director although that he would work closely with de la Renta on designing the next collection.

His company website simply bore  his trademark signature in white against a navy blue background.

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