Born in the Dominican Republic, de la Renta moved to Spain at age 18 to study painting, but happened into fashion when the US ambassador asked him to make a dress for her daughter.
The dress ended up on the cover of Life Magazine, which landed de la Renta an apprenticeship with Spanish fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga. After stint working for the couture house Lanvin in France, de la Renta moved to New York City, where he opened his own label in 1965.
During the 1960s and 70s, de la Renta helped define American style. He specialized in eveningwear and was known for voluminous skirts, exquisite embroideries and rich colors. Cultural icons such as first lady Jacqueline Kennedy were known to don his designs.
Although he made his career largely in New York, de la Renta said that his Dominican roots defined his fashion sensibility.
"I like light, color, luminosity," he told the Associated Press in 2004. "I like things full of color and vibrant.
slk/mz (AP, AFP, Reuters)