Oscar de la Renta: “Gardening is how I relax. It's another form of creating and playing with colors.”
Oscar de la Renta was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, into the protective environment of seven women—a strict, loving mother and six sisters. His father hoped his only son would take over the family's successful insurance business, but in his youth de la Renta wanted to be a painter. Despite his father's objections, de la Renta enrolled in Santo Domingo's National School of Art.
At the age of 18 he left the Dominican Republic to study in Spain, where he studied painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. After his mother's death, his father refused to continue to pay his son's tuition and de la Renta turned to sketching for fashion houses to earn money. His drawings led to an apprenticeship for a successful Spanish designer and eventually a position in a well-known Paris studio.
In his diligent pursuit of his passion for creating beautiful clothes, de la Renta came to New York, working for two more fashion houses before launching his own line in 1965. De la Renta’s creations suggest cosmopolitan sophistication and casual luxury grounded in American sportswear and European couture. His signature stylistic elements include vibrant colors and delicate prints that became staples for First Ladies Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton.
De la Renta’s charitable efforts have focused on both his homeland and his home. He has contributed significantly to the construction of a much-needed school in the Punta Cana region of the Dominican Republic, and he serves on the board of directors for organizations like New Yorkers for Children. Weaving influences from his upbringing and his travels, de la Renta showcases the best blending of cultural influences that produce beautiful things to see.
De la Renta celebrates color at work and play, incorporating gardening into his life as a means of expression. Many experts suggest that children can be stressed by heavy academic burdens and over scheduled free time. Families can develop ongoing activities that expose children to the calming effects of sustained focus, energy and physical efforts.
Baking offers children an ideal mixture of structure and free choice to experiment with variety and literally taste the results. Buy a big cookie recipe book and flip through the pages with your children, showing them the variety of ingredients, shapes and kinds of goodies. Start with a basic recipe like butter, sugar or chocolate chip cookies. After those treats are successful, let the kids choose their intended creations and the whole family can participate in the experiments.
Home redecorating also provides a framework of procedures and limits within which children can make stylistic choices and literally create an environment for the family. Choose a small area for the first project—a bathroom, a corner of a playroom, a wall in the kitchen. Design the outcome first, including color, borders, stencils, appliqués or other elements. Shop for the supplies, reveling in the shades of colors and fun additive products. Outline the stages from prep through production, marking the beginnings and ends of each transition. Lastly, celebrate the conclusion with an unveiling for the whole family to remark on the new look.
The outdoors can be the optimal environment to enjoy relaxing, creative projects. Pick a section of your yard—back or front—and design changes that your family can easily execute. For example, pick a corner and layout a plan for a decorative bench with aromatic plants on either side and a new tree behind that will grow into shade. Select the materials and dig into the physical work of removing earth, laying foundations and borders, planting new flora and inserting the seating. Lastly, schedule regular maintenance to prune, clean up and water.
Cultivating projects for the family creates outlets for self-expression and calming activities away from the hustle and bustle of school, extra-curricular and social life. Springboard from a passion that drives a career into a playful effort for the family to enjoy.