de la Renta
(b. 1932), son of a Dominican Republic insurance agent and his wife,
traveled to Madrid, Spain, at the age of 17 to study art. He wanted
to be a painter, and began sketching for leading Spanish fashion houses
to pay for his art studies. He first thought seriously about a career
in fashion when he designed a debutante gown for the daughter of the
U.S. Ambassador to Spain. A photographic story of the party to which
she wore it appeared in Life magazine. Soon after, he landed
a job at Eisa, Balenciaga's couture house in Madrid.
In 1993 de la Renta was hired by the House of Balmain to design their couture collection, becoming the first American designer since Mainbocher to design couture in Paris, France.