When I was 16, I thought I wanted to be a fashion illustrator. I spent two years cultivating a unique style, working on mood boards and dresses, knowing what I loved to do the most was subject to the grading rubric of strangers authorized to judge hours of work, scrutinizing the details of belts and organza flowers. Late nights, no more than a few hours of sleep, days spent trying to perfect how I drew lace and tulle: hopeless, I thought. Hopeless. Pencils scattered across A2 papers, pastel dust everywhere, breathing more fixative fumes than was healthy – but that dress didn’t look right. So I cried, crumpled up paper until every pen mark was out of sight, until my shame and embarrassment fucked right out from my immediate periphery.
Deep breaths, and then I went looking for inspiration: and I found you, sir. I found your passion and your expertise in every inch of the dresses you put out to the world. I respected you so much, Mr. de La Renta. And of course you never knew this, but you impassioned me. You made me want to pick up that pencil again and clock in more hours over gossamer dresses and expansive skirts. You made me pull out my copics again and care less about botched attempts. You refocused me, Oscar, and made me remember that my labors were labors of love. The 4am tears subsided. The fixative fumes felt less like the poison they actually were. The detailing stopped hurting, and became therapeutic. And I could wake up the next morning, drinking more coffee than was healthy to stave off sleep, look at the final dress and smile to myself.
I may not be a fashion illustrator now or ever, but I will always love fashion because of what you contributed to that beautiful industry.
You may not be of this earth anymore but perhaps you never were. You were blessed with the ability to transform imagination into the tangible, and create some of the most visually stunning works of art the world of couture will ever see. And for that, I thank you. Thank you for helping me ride out all-nighters with grace and confidence.
This is to you, Oscar. I will go home and pull out my sketchbook and draw and draw and draw because that is the legacy you have left. Oscar de La Renta, you will be missed but never forgotten – at least not by the 16 year old artist I used to be.
With love and endless gratitude,