Great Immigrants: Oscar de la Renta

by Joseph McKeown

Iconic fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, known for dressing such women as Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Jessica Parker, and, most recently, George Clooney's bride Amal Alamuddin, and who was the "classic immigrant success story," died last week. Born in Santo Domingo, he got his start in Spain with Cristóbal Balenciaga but soon immigrated to the US to work for Elizabeth Arden. In two years he had his own fashion house, which grew to include fragrances and boutiques in the US and abroad, and soon he became a US citizen.

When asked why first ladies feel so comfortable with him, Mr. de la Renta joked, "'I hope it’s not my age'" and then explained that "much like himself, the First Lady is the ultimate outsider turned insider."

As one of the most famous Dominican immigrants to the US, Mr. de la Renta served as an inspiration and mentor to many Dominican designers, and he was active in many philanthropic ventures in his homelandwhich is not uncommon for many immigrants in the US. 

He was declared an "America icon," a title which he humbly disputed.

Biography, a site by A&E Television Networks of "true stories about people that matter," profiles Mr. de la Renta and also other notable immigrants to the US, and the Carnegie Corporation also celebrates notable immigrants from all walks of life who, as Mr. de la Renta did, have come to the US to pursue their own American dream.