Oscar de la Renta: 1932—: Fashion Designer
From Painter To Designer
De la Renta was born on July 22, 1932, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to Oscar and Maria Antonia deFiallo de la Renta. As a child, de la Renta grew up in the protective environment of seven women—a strict, loving mother and six sisters. His father hoped his only son would someday take over the family's successful insurance business, but from an early age de la Renta knew he wanted to be a painter, a career choice not approved by his father. Despite his father's objections, after graduating from Escuela Normal in 1950, de la Renta enrolled in Santo Domingo's National School of Art.
De la Renta, who had already held a one-man show when he was 17 years old, stayed at the National School of Art for a year before moving to Madrid, Spain, to continue his studies at the San Fernando Art School. After his mother's death, his father refused to continue to pay his son's tuition and de la Renta turned to fashion. As de la Renta later told Hispanic magazine, "If I would have told my father I wanted to be a fashion designer, probably he would have dropped dead right there on the spot." Just eighteen years old, de la Renta used his newly discovered aptitude for fashion to support himself by selling sketches to fashion magazines. After seeing some sketches of de la Renta's original dress designs, Mrs. John Lodge, the wife of Spain's U.S. ambassador, commissioned de la Renta to design a debutante gown for her daughter, Beatrice. When Beatrice appeared on the cover of Life magazine wearing de la Renta's design, the artist decided to abandon his painting to become a design apprentice to noted Spanish couturier, Cristóbal Balenciaga.
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