With a brief wave to his cheering fans, Oscar de la Renta, the elder statesman of American fashion, closed his show Monday morning and promptly departed Bryant Park without pausing to greet waiting well-wishers or take questions from reporters. In previous years, the usually ebullient designer has spent hours talking to friends and reporters. His low profile yesterday fueled growing rumors that the legendary but ailing designer has decided to step down from his company. De la Renta’s press office could not be reached for comment last night, but many fashion insiders whispered that Monday’s show was likely his last.
[UPDATE: This morning, a spokesman for de la Renta said, "Any rumor or speculation that he's going to retire is categorically, 100 percent false. He's been at the office every day preparing for the collection, and he's at the office today. In terms of any medical condition he may or may not have, it's personal and we would never discuss it."]
De la Renta’s departure would be a massive blow to New York’s insular fashion community, where the 74-year-old designer has reigned as the exemplar of a certain type of elegance since he launched his eponymous line in 1965. Over the past four decades, the Dominican-born couturier has clothed stars from Penelope Cruz to Sarah Jessica Parker, and designed the inaugural balls for both Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush. His shows traditionally attract the biggest stars and socialites of Fashion Week, and yesterday’s was no exception: