Oscar de la Renta’s Floral Design Legacy Endures

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By Jill Brooke

In the pantheon of great flower-loving designers – some greats come to mind. Christian Dior. Coco Chanel. And certainly, Oscar de la Renta who died in 2014.

It’s his birthday and his artistry and legacy endures under family leadership. His luxurious clothes have some of the most beautiful floral patterns – stitched with exquisite detail and intricate designs.  Even his jewelry and perfumes are infused with floral influences.

In fact, his lower-priced clothes, as well as jewelry, all have an appreciation for floral motifs. Quality also is there no matter the price.

Prior to becoming a beloved international designer – whose dresses were worn by First Ladies and celebrities – he worked for  Balenciaga, Dior, and Lanvin.

His inspiration was often flowers – particularly the gardenia.

Who can forget the iconic dress Hallie Berry wore to the Oscars that literally created a worldwide sensation. The drape of the scarlet taffeta and the floral designs strategically placed to somehow be elegant and daring simultaneously.


Of course, he could also design for the Upper East Side lady or Texas socialite where the floral designs were more subtle and compact. He was the call when a Hollywood star wanted to be elegant. In fact, he designed the wedding dress for Amal Clooney.

Other times he just indulged in bright and bold flowers as with Celine Dion’s bubblegum pink skirt.

“As a child growing up in the Dominican Republic, he had his own garden in the back of his house and he loved the fragrance of the flowers,” recalls his friend, fashion executive Fern Mallis.

“He would go out at night with a bottle trying to capture the dewdrops off the petals thinking he could make a perfume that way. His very first fragrance when he was a successful designer has a dewdrop on the bottle to recall those days.”

A great entertainer, he had magnificent gardens in Connecticut and the Dominican Republic. “Gardening is how I relax,” he said. “It’s another form of creating and playing with colors.”

Adds Mallis, “He often carried his beautiful flowers into his prints and made gorgeous dresses and gowns that almost had to be watered.”

Although we aren’t wearing gowns any time soon, we can still appreciate the artistry of his designs as well as the jewelry that still can be worn with casual dresses or jeans.