Oscar de la Renta…and me!
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 understand my excitement as I found myself alone 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, I was able to meet and befriend someof 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 magazine and suddenly go ooohhh,’ you can bet that I have paused to look at a de la Renta design. So truth be told, I was excited to be sitting with him, without any distractions and all the time in the world to ask him anything I wanted without any distractions. WOW. Below are a few of the highlights – maybe I will write a part II at a later date!
I hope this interview inspires you as much as it did me. I agree with Mr. de la Renta – Being a woman is our greatest asset in our personal life and in the workplace. We should celebrate our individuality and shine with confidence as we wear clothing that highlights the unique, beautiful women that God created us to be. If you have ever worked with me, you know that I LOVE color. The trick for professional women isn’t that we can’t wear or shouldn’t invest in bright hues – we should make sure that the clothing has a professional, timeless ‘cut,’ so that we can show our personality with color but also make the statement that we are showing up to work. Professional wear is determined by the CUT of your clothing…The secret is that you can be feminine and powerful at the same time!
When I asked him about why he chose to create a line of clothing for Macy’s, he answered, “(I design for) a woman who cannot afford to buy the expensive clothes now, but perhaps one day will be able to.” He added, “Obviously, I try to create the same kind of clothes that I do for the expensive line. You know,I can only design clothes one way. That is always doing the best that I can to make a woman look her very best.” The Oscar de la Renta woman is defined as elegant and sophisticated, and the Macy’s lineexemplifies this statement.
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 consumertoday, 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 collectionâ€¦which was 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.”
Is there a deciding factor of why one dress is chosen?
“A part of it fulfills and represents something that I feel is very important to be part of the picture whenI present the whole collection.” When I askif 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. He continues, “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.”
With this new collection, is there ever a fear that it won’t be as good as or better than your last one?
“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.”
New designers are they really competition for you?
“Any business is a competitive business.”
Are there any major challenges that have come with the growth of this empire? (Fragrances, home goods, the Macy’s line etc)
“Every day is a challenge. The exciting part is to accept the challenge and then try to conquer the challenge.”
As we drive through downtown Nashville he takes a moment to look at Tootsie’s sign that is flashing at usâ€¦a few moments later he turns to me again and I ask him if he enjoys Nashville. He grins and says, “Every time I come here it’s for a very short time, but to see downtown is exciting with all of the lights.”
Do you like country music?
“I love country music in the beginning not as much because I didn’t understand it. My wife and I love Johnny Cash. I never really paid any attention to Johnny Cash until I saw Walk the Line. Now we are big fans.”
What do you do to relax and find peace?
“I move on to something else. I never stop moving. I’m involved in everything, so I take breaks by doing something different.” He tells me about a project he is working on in his beloved home of Punta Cana. He is invested in the Punta Cana Resort & Club as well as the large ecological reserve to go along with it. “My favorite place on earth is being with my family. I don’t like to be alone, I like to be surrounded by people and the most important thing to me is to be able to share time with my family. What I love most is really what I do on a daily basis which is to create clothes. I don’t look at it as work I look at it as something that gives me tremendous pleasure.”
At the age of 18, he moved to Spain, where he studied painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. He admits that his first love was painting and I wanted to know if he still enjoys picking up a brush. “I am very competitiveâ€¦If I were to be a painter I would want to be very good. It is pleasurable, but I would not do it if I could not compete and be the best at it.”
Words you hope to pass down to continue your legacy?
“That I love the woman.”
Thank you Mr. de la Renta, we love you too.
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