Oscar de la Renta, the world renown fashion designer, died this week at age 82. His clientele included Hollywood legends, First ladies and global royalty. He first gained wide exposure in the United States as one of the courtiers who dressed Jacqueline Kennedy.

Oscar de la Renta, the world renown fashion designer, died this week at age 82. His clientele included Hollywood legends, First ladies and global royalty. He first gained wide exposure in the United States as one of the courtiers who dressed Jacqueline Kennedy.


Born Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo at Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, de la Renta left for Spain at age 18, where he studied at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. For a brief time, he pursued abstract art. As he soon discovered, his destiny lay with fashion.


His talent and hard work paved the way for several lucky breaks. As CNN.com reports, after the wife of the U.S. Ambassador to Spain saw some of his dress sketches, she commissioned him to design a gown for her daughter. The daughter and the dress appeared on the cover of Life magazine. This exposure provided him the opportunity to study with the Spanish fashion pioneers, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Antonio del Castillo. He then worked for the Lanvin and Balmain fashion houses before starting his own eponymously named firm.


As above, de la Renta counted society’s elite among his friends and fans. Perhaps the most notable cadre of followers were U.S. first ladies. Stating with Kennedy, de la Renta had dressed every one to follow. Hillary Clinton was an especially devoted follower.


Upon learning of the designer’s passing, she (along with President Bill Clinton) issued the following statement on their website: "His singular talent and exquisite taste elevated American fashion, and his warmth and friendship will be missed by our family and all whose lives he touched in his extraordinary journey." The statement continued: "We will always be grateful to Oscar for the love he showed us, and for sharing his talent on some of the most important occasions of our lives."


Not surprisingly, many of the dresses he designed for Mrs. Kennedy, as well as other first ladies and celebrities, were on temporary display at the Clinton Library last year.


Another close friend, legendary news anchor Barbara Walters said, "Oscar de la Renta was not just a creative and original artist; he was also a great businessman. He was most of all one of the wisest, kindest and funniest friends you can have. All of us who had the pleasure of knowing him have aching hearts today. Our thoughts are with his beloved Annette."


Those who knew him often described de la Renta as a stylish gentleman —- an attribute that garnered him the nickname, "the sultan of suave." While one might be tempted to cast de la Renta’s profession as merely superficial and materialistic (pun not intended), he held a deeply philosophical understanding of existence.


As he told an audience at New York’s 92Y "Fashion Talks" series in June 2013, "The only realities in life are that you are born, and that you die. We always think we are going to live forever. The dying aspect we will never accept. The one thing about having this kind of warning is how you appreciate every single day of life."


We should all take heed of de la Renta’s admonishment. While his was a life of wealth, fame and well-dressed beautiful people, none of these are a prerequisite for happiness. Moreover, none of these are necessary for a life well-spent. Rather, the knowledge of our mortality should teach us to hold every second dear; and to fill them with positive people and experiences.