I was devastated when I heard the news of Oscar de la Renta's passing on Monday. Not just because he was the creator of so many stunning, elegant and timeless designs, but because it was at his New York City showroom that I got my first official taste of the fashion industry.
I was a first semester college freshman, and one day at the end of class, my professor announced the opportunity to volunteer for a day at a designer's showroom in New York. Naturally, as an eighteen-year-old fashion student eager to get my foot in the door, I rushed to sign my name on the dotted line at the top of Oscar de la Renta's sheet.
Fast forward to a chilly day in December. It was my first time spending more than a few hours in the "Big Apple," and I had no idea what to expect (or what to wear). My job was to assist with dressing models for buyer presentations – I think the Bergdorf team was actually there that day – featuring the latest runway collection and to help prep inventory for their upcoming trunk show. Not very glamorous, but at eighteen I just felt lucky to be there ... experiencing the industry I've loved for as long as I can remember. And while I spent most of my time that day dressing models, oohing and ahhing over the gorgeous one-of-a-kind runway pieces, and checking inventory against spreadsheets, I was lucky enough to have my very own Oscar moment.
He wasn't expected to be there that day, but decided to make a surprise appearance for one of the buyer appointments. When he arrived, I watched, totally starstruck, from behind-the-scenes as he and his team conducted the presentation. It was so inspiring to see him in action at the helm of the fashion empire he created. He personally made sure everything was just so – from the styling of each look down to how the bows were tied on each of the gowns (we were formally instructed on this after sending out sub-par bows during a run through). And while I was never formally introduced (oh, the glamor of behind-the-scenes intern work), I left completely inspired. Watching him work reminded me that you can create something amazing with just an idea, dedication and hard work.
I will forever remember the time I briefly crossed paths with Oscar de la Renta, a man who gave me my first look into the world of fashion, and inspired me and so many others – season after season – with his talent. He is man who left a legacy.