NEW YORK — Designer Oscar de la Renta may be a celebrity favorite, but the feeling isn't mutual when it comes to stars and athletes who want to delve into fashion design.
"Today you can hit a good tennis ball and be a fashion designer," said de le Renta in an interview Wednesday. "Today you can be a movie star and if your last movie didn't do too well, you become a fashion designer. But you know it's craft that you learn. It's craft of passion."
De la Renta's celebrity pals, including Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters and Sarah Jessica Parker, were on hand to show their support Wednesday as The Fashion Institute of Technology presented him with the 2012 Couture Council Award for Artistry.
"It's interesting to me that he dresses the possible first lady, Mrs. Romney. He dresses Hilary Clinton. He is bipartisan, non-denominational, just wonderful clothes," said Walters before finding her seat at de la Renta's table for the afternoon soiree at Lincoln Center.
Ann Romney, wife of the Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, donned a bold red Oscar de la Renta dress last week during her speech at the Republican National Convention.
Designer Diane von Furstenberg and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour also sat with de la Renta during the presentation, which included a speech from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Despite the pomp and circumstance, de la Renta's focus was elsewhere – on his next collection headed down the runway Tuesday during New York Fashion Week.
"This is what I call in the business `panic time.' If I tell you what the collection is going to look like now I don't know. I will know once the girls start walking the runway," he said.
So does the 80-year-old, who also recently launched a children's collection, have any plans of slowing down?
"Not now," he said. "Every single day is a learning process. And I think that to be a good fashion designer, it's not what I did. It's what I'm doing. You know, it's about now."