Oscar de la Renta still fits “every single dress” on his models

Models pose with designer Oscar de la Renta yesterday at Holt Renfrew in Toronto. Photography by George Pimentel

No one can charm the ladies like Oscar de la Renta, who swooped into Toronto yesterday by P.J. (That’s billionaire shorthand for private jet, my friends.)

De la Renta was in town for a fundraising fashion show and gala, but squeezed in an intimate hour with VIP clients at Holt Renfrew’s Bloor St. flagship.

The 77-year-old designer captivated with tales of his childhood and one true confession: He never went to fashion school.

“I was born in a country with no fashion tradition,” de la Renta began. “But I was the only boy and the youngest of six sisters.” All that feminine energy at home, mixed with the colourful Latin aesthetic of the Dominican Republic sparked an interest in clothes. “If I had told my father, who was in the insurance business, that I wanted to be a fashion designer, he would have dropped dead. But my mother helped me fulfill my dreams.”

She convinced her husband to send young de la Renta to art school. “I was five years younger than any other student,” he recalls. “When we had to draw a live model naked, I was terrified!”

He went on to study art in Spain, and began doing fashion illustrations for newspapers. That brought him into the fashion houses, including that of the legendary Cristobal Balenciaga.

Watching one of the greatest designers of the twentieth century drape cloth proved education enough, and the lessons learned have remained. “A lot of designers today, they sit in a chair and look at the clothes on a model and don’t even touch the cloth,” he remarked. “I still fit every single dress.”

Preview the Pre-Fall and Fall 2010 collections at the Oscar de la Renta trunk show today and tomorrow at Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor St. W., Toronto).

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