Oscar de la Renta’s style was all about empowering women—and they loved him for it

You didn’t have to know anything about fashion to understand the power of the name Oscar de la Renta. The 82-year-old designer, who passed away after a long battle with cancer on Monday, left a legacy of dressing some of the world’s most revered women. Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Oprah Winfrey, Amal Clooney, to name-drop just a few.

It was a truth well-known within the fashion industry: When some of the world’s most impactful women wanted to make a statement in politics, in Hollywood or on their wedding day, they turned to a man who, at his core, understood the whale-boning of a women’s stature. “The qualities I most admire in women are confidence and kindness,” he once said, and that delicate balance of strength and softness was reflected in the billowing, richly colored gowns he designed.

In his lifetime, he was the style conscience for professional, high-powered women in every field—from CEOs to the Secretary of State. He understood not only how to dress women so that they looked strategically impeccable, but also so that they felt like their true selves—albeit sometimes in fairy tale gowns.

His immense respect for strong women, as both a designer and as a man, was apparent in the words he spoke and the dresses he dreamed up. Here are some of his most inspiring quotes about designing for women, along with some of his most notable muses.

I design clothes for women to wear. I am not interested in shock tactics. I just want to make beautiful clothes.”

What women have achieved in the last 50 years, I wish men would have achieved in the last 100.”

Work hard. Believe in yourself. It’s not the publicity that sells the clothes, it’s the woman.”

I think that probably what has made my business so successful today is because the most important consumer now is the professional woman.”

My job as a designer is to make a woman feel her very best.”

And finally: “It’s not about what you wear, but about how you live your life.”

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