25 Oscar de la Renta Quotes on the Power of Fashion and Women

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He dressed some of the most powerful women in the world — including Jacqueline Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey. He championed the independent, modern woman—reflected in the strength and femininity of his stunning gowns and sought-after fashions. Oscar de la Renta passed away this week, but his grace and sophistication — as a designer and a man — live on through his words about the industry he helped build and the women he loved to dress.

“We live in an era of globalization and the era of the woman. Never in the history of the world have women been more in control of their destiny.”

“Now is the most exciting time in fashion. Women are controlling their destiny now, the consumer is more knowledgeable, and I have to be better every single day.”

“What women have achieved in the last 50 years, I wish men would have achieved in the last 100.”

“The qualities I most admire in women are confidence and kindness.”

“I design clothes for women to wear. I am not interested in shock tactics. I just want to make beautiful clothes.”

“Work hard. Believe in yourself. It’s not the publicity that sells the clothes, it’s the woman.”

“I think that probably what has made my business so successful today is because the most important consumer now is the professional woman.”

“I don’t really know how to do casual clothes.”

“Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself.”

“My job as a designer is to make a woman feel her very best.”

“The great thing about fashion is that it always looks forward.”

“We’re dealing with sophisticated customers. What’s most important to these women is individuality. I have to create things she’ll want to wear, no matter who she is.”

“There is always an emotional element to anything that you make.”

“I hate pretty. It’s a very empty word. It gives a bad name to beauty.”

“Being well dressed hasn’t much to do with having good clothes. It’s a question of good balance and good common sense.”

“Every season I am inspired by women.”

“Elegance is an old word […] a lot of anonymous girls walking along the street have a style of their own.”

“I think there are two kinds of designers: the survivors, like me, and the designers who so strongly identify with one look and one period in their careers that they can never get beyond it. I also have the memory of a mosquito, so the most important piece is the next piece, and the next collection, because I cannot remember the last.”

“The ladies who lunch is one of the corniest phrases and one I deeply hate. Because it doesn’t exist, not anymore. Whether the woman is working for a salary or working as a volunteer, what’s important in the modern history of American fashion is the emergence of a woman who is no longer a socialite.”

“I really hate nostalgia. I don’t look at the world today and say, Oh, what a pity there are no Babe Paleys around. That’s not how to live your life. And the only manners I am interested in are the manners of the heart.”

“[The world of fashion, of society] will go wherever women want it to go. It’s unbelievably extraordinary to remember that when I came to New York, it was a time when women couldn’t wear a pair of pants to a restaurant.”

“I’d love to be a courtesan. You realize that, historically, the courtesans were the only women allowed to have an education.” —when asked who he would be if he could be anyone else “in fact or fiction.”

“Today, women have the power to make their own decisions. She doesn’t really care so much about whose dress she will wear; she cares about how she identifies with that dress, how that dress represents [how] she feels on a particular day.”

“Never, ever confuse what happens on a runway with fashion. A runway is spectacle.”

“For me, my work is a celebration of a woman’s beauty and femininity. At the end of the day, I make dresses and I want to make her happy.”