High heels click-clacked across the floor as women bustled to and from dressing rooms. Racing to adjust hats and garments, store staff triplechecked mannequins and merchandise. Accessories were donned with careful consideration, and with one last glance in the mirrors, silence fell over everyone at Marissa Collections.
A rock star was about to walk through the door of Oscar the prestigious boutique. As if on cue, almost as soon as every last lady was dressed to the nines, Oscar de la Renta strolled in.
One of the world’s most beloved fashion designers, Mr. de la Renta was in town for the sixth annual Hats in the Garden event at the Naples Botanical Garden. A highlight of the luncheon was the runway showing of the designer’s spring 2010 ready-to-wear collection of brightly belted day dresses, sophisticated shorts and flowery off-theshoulder cocktail frocks.
The iconic designer’s presence caused quite a celebration among the Naples fashion elite. Linda Malone, Jean Preston, Julie Dalton and Elizabeth Star, all regular Marissa Collections customers, were at the boutique to welcome the designer before heading off to Hats in the Garden. For Neapolitan Jan Goldsmith, the designer’s visit was especially exciting. Ms. Goldsmith was married last year in an Oscar de le Renta gown, which she brought to Marissa’s for the distinguished designer to sign.
Since 1965, women have rejoiced over Mr. de la Renta’s designs (he produces a full line of handbags, shoes and jewelry, home products and fragrance in addition to his ready-to-wear clothing and bridal gowns).
“Oscar de la Renta has a very loyal following in Naples,” said Marissa Hartington, owner of the Third Street South boutique that bears her name and that is the designer’s exclusive partner in the Naples area. She was especially pleased to welcome him back to her shop in conjunction with the grand opening of the new Naples Botanical Garden. “A love of flowers and gardens is something that Oscar and I have in common, so I am happy to be able to share this with him.”
A generous patron of the arts and community organizations around the world, Mr. de la Renta serves on the board of The Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, New Yorkers for Children and the Americas Society. He is chairman of the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute and helped build a school and day care center that serves 1,200 children in the Dominican Republic. He was delighted to be part of the Naples Botanical Garden celebration. (The Garden closed in June 2008 for renovations and re-opened last weekend with a three major cultivated gardens and 90 acres of restored natural habitats.)
“Gardening is a beloved hobby of mine, and I think this is a wonderful initiative for the community,” he said.
Ms. Hartington recognizes the broad appeal of de la Renta designs to women of all ages and lifestyles. “You can dress women of all ages in Oscar’s fashions, thanks to varying lengths — popular shorter lengths for very young ladies and longer lengths which appeal to more mature women,” she said. “His pieces are classics with a romantic, feminine twist that can take you anywhere in the world, and his fabrics are amazing.”
The designer, whose clothing has graced some of the world’s most famous and beautiful women, said he has a sense for creating clothes that women can feel good wearing.
“Today there is a very different consumer — the professional woman who wants to express her individuality, grace and femininity,” he said. “I see my role as a designer to make these women look beautiful, and to guess what they want that makes them feel beautiful.”
That philosophy has culminated in nearly 50 years of hard work and countless accolades.
Mr. de la Renta left his native Dominican Republic at age 18 to study painting in Madrid, where he developed an interest in design. Sketching for Spanish fashion houses led to an apprenticeship with couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga, followed by a stint as couture assistant to Antonio Castillo at the house of Lanvin in Paris. In 1963, he went to New York to design the couture collection for Elizabeth Arde. He started his signature ready-to-wear label in 1965.
Mr. de la Renta received the 2009 Superstar award from The Fashion Group International and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Parsons School of Design in 2006. He was the first American ever to design for a French couture house and was awarded the French Legion d’Honneur as a Commandeur.
In 2008 he opened shops in Athens and Madrid and continued expanding in 2009 with the opening of a store in Dubai. A boutique in Moscow is planned for 2010.
— For information about Oscar de la Renta designs available at Marissa Collections, visit www.MarissaCollections.com or call 263-4333. For more information on The Naples Botanical Gardens, visit www. NaplesGarden.org or call 643-7275.