Looking back over the awards season that ended with the Oscars Feb. 22, the red carpet was a little less luminous owing to the loss of two of fashion’s brightest lights: designers Oscar de la Renta and L’Wren Scott.
Between them, de la Renta, 82, who lost his almost-decade-long battle with cancer in October, and Scott, 49, who passed tragically in March, have dressed the evening’s biggest stars, including Cameron Diaz, Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams, Penelope Cruz and Jennifer Garner.
“You always knew there was going to be a great Oscar dress on the red carpet,” says Elizabeth Saltzman, stylist to Gwyneth Paltrow. “He was the epitome of class and style and taste. I adored him. It’s for his clothing I would save my money, knowing how timeless each piece is, how beautifully made, how worthy, and chic, and not trendy.”
De la Renta’s timelessness, says Eric Daman, Emmy-winning costume designer on “Sex and the City” and “Gossip Girl,” stemmed from his matchless savoir-faire.
“His designs were the embodiment of a richness that comes from decades of experience with couture,” says Daman of de la Renta, who honed his skills in the studios of Cristobal Balenciaga in Spain, Lanvin in Paris and Elizabeth Arden in New York, before launching his own label in 1965. “He had the ability to separate fashion from style. You’d be hard pressed to find any of Oscar’s past looks that could be called ‘dated’— they seem perpetually relevant.”
Not only did the Dominican Republic-born designer conquer Hollywood, he also conquered Capitol Hill.
“I respect that Oscar not only wanted to dress young Hollywood starlets, he also dressed politicians, and real woman making real change,” says Lawren Sample, stylist to “Mad Men’s” Christina Hendricks, of the designer, who’s dressed every First Lady since Jacqueline Kennedy including, arguably, the current First Lady of Hollywood, Amal Clooney, on her wedding day.
“My favorite Oscar de la Renta moment would have to be the dramatic powder blue Amy Adams wore to the (2013) Oscars. It was a lot of dress on a little lady, but she worked it, and you could tell she felt like a million bucks,” says Sample.
De la Renta also lent his considerable cache to the smallscreen. “On ‘Gossip Girl,’ I had the luxury of being privy to the great generosity of Oscar’s studio,” says Daman. “The favor of a such an inspiring designer was a great privilege, and a gift that’s rare,” says Daman, who cites the red Oscar De La Renta that Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) wore when she met Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) as “encapsulating the passion, romance and drama of their star-crossed love.”
Scott’s route to the red carpet was a little more circuitous. Raised in Roy, Utah, she found fame in Paris as a model for Chanel and Thierry Mugler before moving to Los Angeles and establishing herself as a stylist for such iconic photographers as Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and Mario Sorrenti.
Saltzman distinctly recalls the first time she met the six-foot-three Scott. “I was in L.A. doing a shoot with Herb Ritts. He had a party on the beach, near Malibu. This woman walked in, and I vividly remember thinking, ‘Wow! Who. Is. That? I need to know that one.’ Fast forward maybe a decade, and we were thrown together at work (at Vanity Fair, where Saltzman was fashion director at the time). I remember calling her and saying, ‘I just want classic Herb Ritts,’ and getting absolutely nothing we discussed. What she did was way better than what I’d envisioned. I thought, ‘Boy, do I feel pointless, and boy, did she get it and do something great here.’ It wasn’t out of disrespect — it was talent. She was such a creative ball of intellectual fun. She was the inspiration.”
Sample’s memories, too, are of Scott’s “impeccably unparalleled eye.” Recalls Sample, “The night of her Banana Republic release party (Scott’s capsule collection debuted at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont in November 2013), Christina, L’Wren and I were sitting at the rooftop comparing jewelry. L’Wren had just returned from a trip to Turkey, where she’d purchased all the jewels she was wearing. A couple months later, she passed. When I made my first voyage to Turkey, I found myself in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. I was with a guide, and was remarking over how beautiful the fabrics and jewels of the sultan were. My guide looked at me and said, ‘You remind me of a client I once had.’ That client, we discovered, was L’Wren.”
Although her career as a designer was yet in its infancy — Scott launched her eponymous collection in 2006 — she nonetheless made an indelible mark. “L’Wren’s work brings a very strong new-century aesthetic to the forefront, a vision of a modern woman in a modern world that can be harsh, yet seductive” says Daman of the designer who’s dressed Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Kidman (her longtime client), Madonna and Mick Jagger (her longtime love), and First Ladies Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. “There’s something very fin-de-siecle about the L’Wren Scott woman,” adds Daman. “She’s the new paradigm that represents a feminine power that is palpable — a modern maverick among women and men.”
“L’Wren had such an exquisite eye for fabric, jewelry and fit. There was never a time when I got a dress that did not fit like a glove, no matter what the client’s shape,” says Sample.
Neither designer, says Sample, will be forgotten: “Oscar raised the bar on what it means for a dress to compliment a woman’s beauty and femininity. As for L’Wren, I believe she left us with a challenge to be adventurous and explore this world in style.”