RIP Oscar de la Renta

1- nancy oscar entering
Remembering Oscar de la Renta



The first time I met Oscar de la Renta was in Paris in July, 2000, just after he presented his fall/ winter haute couture collection for Balmain.

Few Americans in the history of French haute couture have ever created fashions for a major Parisian couturier, but the brilliant de la Renta had that rare privilege, designing for the prestigious house of Balmain from 1993 to 2002.

We talked about his beautiful collection and I also brought him regards from his first-ever employee. He and de la Renta had both worked at Elizabeth Arden in the 1960s, and so when de la Renta started his own label, he brought along the gent in question — my mother’s then-beau, by then quite elderly and long retired.

De la Renta’s eyes lit up at the mention of his old friend and former staff designer. “I started my business with Joe,” he  said with a congenial smile, recalling those early years. 

oscar last show-001


The Balmain couture shows: I continued to attend de la Renta’s haute couture shows, including his last for Balmain, when his fellow designers sat front row and gave him a standing ovation as he took his last stroll down the runway.

If you look closely at the picture on this page, you can just make out Valentino (and his distinctive tan). He’s the man standing, taking de la Renta’s hand. 


The Colleagues Luncheons: Flash forward to 2010 and 2011, when I covered the Colleagues spring luncheons for the Los Angeles Times. On those occasions, I was invited to de la Renta’s suite at the Beverly Wilshire to talk before the event began.

Always charming, he talked less both times about the fashion collection he came to present than about one of his favorite clients: former First Lady Nancy Reagan, whom he later escorted into the ballroom.  

“To tell you the truth, I don’t even remember the collection,” he said back then of the day’s fashion show. “I have the memory of a mosquito.  As soon as I finish one line, I’m off to the next.”

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Of Nancy Reagan, he said, “This is the greatest lady in the U.S..” 

Click here to read the story I wrote after that last Colleagues show de la Renta attended, and scroll down to see my collection of photos.


Top photo: Nancy Reagan, escorted by Oscar de la Renta, at the 2011 Colleagues Spring Luncheon; RIP Oscar de la Renta (photo,

Second photo: Oscar de la Renta walking the runway at his final haute couture show for Balmain in Paris – that’s Valentino taking his hand; RIP Oscar de la Renta (photo:

Third photo: That’s me, Ellen Olivier, with Oscar de la Renta at the 2011 Colleagues Spring Luncheon. I treasure this picture. RIP Oscar de la Renta  (photo,

Fourth photo: Another photo of myself with Oscar de la Renta, this one from 2000. I treasure this photo even more than the one above.  (photo,

balmain eao & oscar_edited-002


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RIP Oscar de la Renta 

Published Oct. 20, 2014 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA