Oscar de la Renta
“Eventually we will find a total cure,” says Oscar de la Renta, himself a cancer survivor, surrounded by some of his elegant, sophisticated designs.

At age 81, Oscar de la Renta is still leading the charge of his $500 million fashion empire. What drives him? “Greed!” he bellows. What a relief—a direct, honest word from a pillar of an industry known for hyperbole. Alas, he’s just kidding. The real response is far more romantic, anyway. “No. It’s just being able to design clothes that the human falls in love with.”

For a half-century now, the world’s luxe-loving women have fallen for de la Renta’s trademark elegant sophistication, a sensibility first honed under the mentorship of famed couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga. It’s a two-sided love affair. “I’m celebrating 50 years in this business, and I am so honored that I have been able to witness the evolution of women in the last 50 years,” says the Dominican Republic-born designer.

Helping women look their best has defined his career. This month, his glamorous, feminine designs will empower fellow cancer survivors at the Designed for a Cure benefit for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami. The February 13 event will feature a runway show with patients (donning current Oscar de la Renta that is now available in stores) among the professional models dressed in the designer’s Spring 2014 collection.

“The idea behind this show is great because it gives hope to other people,” says de la Renta, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. “The aspect of surviving cancer is something that is very dear to anyone who is afflicted with this horrible disease. Every day, there is extraordinary progress being made, and the fact that, after I don’t know how many years of coping with it, I would be there with my long-time doctor and great friend Dr. Stephen D. Nimer [the director of Sylvester] is a great testimony to the advances and help from everyone. Eventually we will find a total cure.”

De la Renta has a soft spot for Miami in general. “I love Miami. Even if I am there for work, I feel that I am there on a holiday. It’s the closest place to my home country in the United States.”

When news of his cancer scare surfaced, the natural reaction was that perhaps de la Renta was finally gearing up for retirement. But now, a few years later, the last thing he wants to talk about is retirement. “That is the one word that I literally loathe,” he says. “It’s a word that doesn’t ever enter my mind.” Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-868-7986. For more information on the February 13 event, visit sylvester.org/designedforacure.

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