Journalism and Fashion Lost Two Greats with the Passing of Ben Bradlee and Oscar de la Renta

Journalism and Fashion Lost Two  Greats with the Passing of Ben Bradlee and Oscar de la Renta

I have had the good fortune to work as a journalist and, among other things, to cover the fashion scene here and in Europe for a number of years — and in both fields the names of Ben Bradlee and Oscar de la Renta have stood out as tops in their field. Bradlee, the former editor of The Washington Post, passed away at age 93 and de la Renta at 82 this week.  

Although Bradlee is best known for overseeing and approving the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose "Deep Throat" reportage of the Watergate break-in at the Democratic headquarters resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, it's important to recognize that his leadership at The Washington Post, along with that of the newspaper's owner, Kay Graham, set the standard for newspapers throughout the nation for many years.

In honoring Bradlee last year with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Obama said, "A true newspaperman, he transformed The Washington Post into one of the country's finest newspapers, and with him at the helm, a growing army of reporters published the Pentagon Papers, exposed Watergate, and told stories that needed to be told — stories that helped us understand our world and one another just a little bit better."

Perhaps Donald Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post, said it best: "He pushed as hard as an editor can push to print the story of the Pentagon Papers; he led the team that broke the Watergate story. And he did much more. His drive to make the paper better still breathes in every corner of today's Post newsroom."

Oscar de la Renta was born in the Dominican Republic and left home at 18 to study painting in Madrid. He developed a love of fashion design and apprenticed with the great Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga. He later worked for Lanvin in Paris, then moved to New York City, where he launched his own label. He soon caught the eye of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, whose patronage gave the young designer a national reputation. First ladies Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton also discovered de la Renta, as did a number of Hollywood stars and others who could afford his fashions. The rest, as they say, "is history."

De la Renta, who won a number of fashion awards over the years, is also remembered for his zest for life. It was said that he "appreciated every moment of his high-profile life." Not a bad epitaph.