Interview with Oscar de la Renta
As you can imagine, meeting one of my fashion icons would be an amazing event even if I only had the opportunity to shake his hand so you can envision my excitement as I found myself suddenly in the limo bus with him, his beautiful step daughter, Eliza, who is the vice-president of the $250 million licensing department, and her husband, Alex Bolen, who is the company’s CEO.
I’m not one of those people who squeals around famous people having worked in the music industry for a brief (yet exhilarating) stint, I was able to meet some of the greatsâ€¦and I can assure you, there was no squealing. Meeting Mr. de la Renta was a bit different though his clothing and designs have always been a form of art that inspired me. I have consistently been drawn to his designs if I am flipping through Vogue and suddenly go ooohhh,’ you can almost be certain that it is a de la Renta design. So truth be told, I was completely overwhelmed in the limo bus of all places to be sitting with him, without any distractions and 20 minutes to ask him anything I wanted. WOW. (Let me thank Mr. Bolen for this opportunity. He so graciously invited me to ride with them to their private jet when he found out earlier that evening that I still had not yet had a chance to interview Mr. de la Renta. He is a complete gentleman and extraordinary businessman).
When I asked if he had any tips for the everyday woman and by this I mean, not a celebrityâ€¦he quickly answered, “What is most important for a woman today is to express her own sense of individuality. I say this is the best time, EVER, to be a designer because there’s never been in history a woman who is more in control of her destiny as a woman is today. You know that a woman has a lot of choices.” He continues, “Obviously there is no loyalty among the consumer today, because what is most important is a projection of her own sense of individuality and an expression of femininity. A woman knows today that even in the workplace to be a woman is a great asset.”
The purpose for the fashion show was to highlight his fall 2008 collectionâ€¦which is truly exquisite. To choose which glamorous piece of clothing actually makes it to the runway, he tells me it is a process of working with his assistants in his design studio. The pieces that make it to the runway he feels are going to be the most commercial and will appeal to thebroadest group of women in the right price range. He adds, “The dress has to merit being on the runway.”
“A part of it fulfills and represents something that I feel is very important to be part of the picture when I present the whole collection.” When I ask if he has any favorites, he smiles and says, “I have no favorites, you know, I like them all. Probably I like the one that nobody likes because I feel sorry for the dress.”
Running his business is truly a family affair. When I asked him if he enjoyed working with Alex and Eliza he said, “It is wonderful because I see a continuation of the brand which is important. We are about building a brand and obviously having my family involved I know that it will continue and always be there.” Alex Bolen, worked in finance, founding and then selling an asset-management company before joining Bear Stearns. As the market stalled, Alex consulted part-time for De la Renta while the designer searched for a new CEO. “It took a very long time to convince Alex to work in the business. Eliza has been working with me now for a very long time in the beginning she wanted to work in causes that had to do with the environment. Eventually they decided that this was their business.”
“There is always a fear the day that you don’t have that fear then you should stop working. Every day is a learning process, everyday. People say, oh my goodness, you have been doing this for so many years, and you must have a sense of confidence with this collection. No, every time is more difficult because you demand more of yourself. Every time there are younger designers, new designers. Knowing that you have competition makes you try to excel and do your best.”
“Any business is a competitive business.”