Dominican Republic mourns death of fashion icon Oscar de la Renta

Women stand outside the store of designer Oscar De la Renta in Manhattan's upper eastside in New York on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Women stand outside the store of designer Oscar De la Renta in Manhattan's upper eastside in New York on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SANTO DOMINGO (REUTERS) - Government officials, artists and citizens on Tuesday mourned the death of Oscar de la Renta, the fashion designer who raised the profile of the Caribbean nation where he was born and which he supported throughout his life.

News of de la Renta's death from cancer late on Monday at the age of 82 dominated national newspapers and the government declared on Wednesday a national day of mourning with flags to be flown at half mast.

President Danilo Medina led the nation in paying tribute to de la Renta, who died at his home in Connecticut, saying the designer had "raised up the name of the Dominican Republic".

"The international fashion (world) and all the Dominican Republic is in mourning. We lost the great Oscar de la Renta,"Medina said on Twitter.

De la Renta was world renowned for his sophisticated designs worn by Hollywood stars and U.S. first ladies, but during his long career he never forgot the nation where he was born and often spent time with family and friends.

"The charisma and social commitment of Oscar de la Renta led him to undertake works that changed the lives of thousands of children," Medina said, adding that his death leaves "a void impossible to fill".

Dominican Foreign Minister, Andrés Navarro, said the nation lost "a Dominican who knew how to put Dominican-ness up on a world level", and was aware that his legacy will live forever.

"He was a permanent ambassador of our country abroad. He diffused the qualities that adorn the Dominican Republic. With his departure, the nation says goodbye to one of its most universal sons and a promoter of the best Dominican qualities,"Navarro said in a statement.

Singer Julio Iglesias, a close friend of de la Renta, expressed his sorrow on Twitter.

"I imagine you took with you the sea of Punta Cana, the sea of memories, the sea of joy, the magic sea, the sea that you invented," Iglesias added, referring to the resort where they spent time together.

De la Renta is also credited with increasing the popularity of the Dominican Republic as tourist resort.

"In all times and circumstances, he emphasised his Dominican status. This, of course, contributed to the interest of investors and vacationers to know our nation," Navarro said.