A Story About Oscar
(illustration property of Shannon Ables, Simply Luxurious Life. Dress design, Oscar de la Renta)
I feel unqualified to write about the loss of Oscar de la Renta, like an unwelcome intruder in his family’s grief, but at the same time I want to remember him and celebrate a wonderful career and life.
I was no part of his life. But like so many others he unknowingly had a profound influence on my life.
The party line about my decision to move to the city in the summer of 2011 was that it was time to grow my company in the city where art and fashion thrive, but at that point, I still hadn't completely accepted that a "traditional career path" was out of the question for me and the truth is that, the start of my life in NYC was also the start of an internship at Oscar de la Renta.
It began when the divine PR girl “reporting from inside one of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses” caught wind of a few of my Oscar inspired illustrations and posted them on her new and riotously popular OscarPRgirl blog.
I was elated and amazed that my art caught this exacting, chic, talented woman’s eye. I could barely believe my fortune and her generosity and kindness in sharing my art and thanking me for helping celebrate Oscar's designs.
So these fledgling digital interactions with this innovative communicator, OscarPRgirl, were driving me towards the siren call of NYC. One thing led to another, and I was moving into the smallest apartment in the East Village and starting an internship at Oscar de la Renta.
So at the age of 25, I became what felt like the worlds oldest and most naive fashion PR intern. I needed to know once and for all if I wanted to work for a creative innovator, like Oscar de la Renta, or if I wanted to continue trying to become a creative innovator in my own, independent way.
The internship was the last stop on the “traditional job express" and it is something I’ve avoided discussing in much detail on my blog as I was asked not to share details of my internship in this forum. I’ll continue to respect this rule for the most part.
Once an intern, always an intern.
But last night when I checked my instagram feed and wondered, curiously at first, why everyone was posting pictures of Oscar, and then with growing sadness and alarm that this meant he had left us, I knew I couldn’t continue to keep completely silent.
Do you ever look forward to the stories you’ll beat into your children and grandchildren before they’re born? I do. I think the story I’ll share with them most is about the time that I almost sat on Oscar de la Renta.
It was the fall of 2011, and I was a spry young thing working tirelessly at filing an unending supply of magazines into alphabetized and date-filtered organizational system in the PR office of Oscar de la Renta.
Being an intern required the careful reading and cataloging of every magazine seemingly in print in the western world.
I am the first to admit, I was not good at this. Not good at this at all. But you couldn’t have said I wasn’t trying. In fact, I was trying with the same tunnel-vision, terror driven intensity that a bug exerts when trying to escape an upturned glass. Like my life depended upon it. And I think I really did believe that my life did depend upon it.
Anyway, there I was, bug trapped in a glass case of emotion and unread magazines waiting to be poured over, correctly labeled and filed away. Minding my own business.
Or, more like, attacking my own business.
I was in the zone.
Speed through glossy page after page…spring up from my chair to squeeze magazines into the twenty foot long bookshelf packed to bursting with other publications featuring Oscar designs….then crash backwards, down into the chair behind me to continue reading and labeling.
Read, Spring, Crash back. Read, spring, crash back….
I assume this won’t be hard for you to believe… I tend to get lost in my own self-narrated reveries about life, existence, the universe, struggle.
I think I was in one such voice-over narrative of my own life while I was oscillating between springing forth and then falling back into the chair when I realized, with not a moment to spare, that someone or something had filled the space in the chair behind me.
The awarness of a presence behind me took hold of me just in time before I crashed back into said chair.
I teetered on my heels into the desk beside me and I turned around and there, sitting in my intern chair, unknowingly highly at risk for being sat/crashed upon, was Oscar de la Renta.
With handsome chin resting thoughtfully in hand, confident ankle tossed across knee. The pose you expect him to be sitting in. You know the one.
He was just sitting in my chair, easy as that. Chatting with the higher-ups. Totally unaware that his most accident prone intern had just come within a split second of falling backwards into his lap and therefore ruining her entire sense of capability to function as a human.
Of course, I’d seen him at a distance on a daily basis, working in the studio that I did not ever enter, dressmakers bust before him, surrounded by his designers like an italian renaissance masters portrayal of Jesus and the apostles. But I’d never seen him come into the PR office and sit in someones chair, let alone my chair.
I’d even been instructed that should I run into him in transit within the halls, I should avoid staring and duck into the nearest office to let him pass in peace. And here I was almost sitting on him!
I blacked out exactly what happened next, but for the sake of preserving the memory’s integrity for my future children, let’s say I gathered up the remaining magazines and quickly exited the PR area and disappeared to the copy room.
But, you know, in retrospect, as I look through all the images of this man that so many of us admired and drew inspiration from, I realize Oscar could have totally handled it if I’d accidentally sat down in the middle of his impromptu meeting.
His grace, elegance, poise, humor and above all, understanding of how to create beauty are undisputable. His work and legacy will always inspire. I truly feel a loss today knowing he has sent his final collection down the runway. I send a quiet prayer of gratitude for the inspiration, for the stories for my grandchildren.
And I think, I really do think, that even if I had sat on him, he probably would have laughed.