Last night, at the opening of Toronto fashion week, I heard of the passing of Oscar de la Renta; even though I had known he had been ill for some time, the news threw me off my feet.
I know everyone will describe Oscar as the incredible icon of American fashion; and reference the countless designers he inspired and the limitless number of women he made feel beautiful. But to me, Oscar was a friend.
We met in the beginning of 2009; I had been a loyal fan of his for many years, and had flown to New York to talk to him about coming to Toronto to work on a fashion fundraiser with me. My knees were wobbly in the elevator and I don’t believe I had much sleep the night before; but my anxiety was swept away within minutes of sitting with this incredibly charismatic, humble man.
He was interested in what I wanted to do; we spoke about the charities I wanted to support and the women in Toronto who I knew would love to meet him. With a soft sparkle in his eyes and a genuine, soft smile, he agreed to do it. He said that he felt I was the right one to bring him to Toronto. At this point, it’s fair to say I was enchanted.
We spent hours talking before and during his visit to Toronto in 2010. We spoke about his adopted son and his late first wife, about his passion for the orphanage he founded in the Dominican Republic (where he was born), and about the solace he found at his private retreat there. I was honoured that he shared these memories with me.
Oscar took a chance with me—he had no idea of what I was going to do in Toronto, but he had faith from the time we spent together. I last saw Oscar at his runway show in February of this year. He was ill and no press were allowed to speak with him. However, I was able to see him briefly, and he gave me a hug and had the same sparkle in his eyes. “Suzanne, did you see the pink dress?” he asked. “I thought of you when I made it.” Those were Oscar’s last words to me. Needless to say, I bought it.