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It was just a dress. Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s dress that is, and it put Cuban-American designer Narciso Rodríguez on the fashion map back in 1996. After working for Cerruti, Donna Karan (at Anne Klein), TSE, and Calvin Klein, his friend Carolyn Bessette asked him to design her wedding dress.

With a simple, yet revealing slip-dress, Rodríguez made the bride look like both a princess and a seductress. The style of that dress would become the designer’s trademark and a much imitated silhouette through the 1990’s.

In 2005, the designer became the first American to win the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year two years in a row.

His list of clients include Claire Danes, Rachel Weisz, Eva Mendes, Ashley Olsen, Sarah Jessica Parker and Salma Hayek among others, and he’s frequently mentioned as the successor of the most eminent sportswear designers such as Anne Klein, Halston and Calvin Klein.

With his Latin roots, Rodríguez designs with a sense of color and curve that is rarely seen in the fashion industry. "I was born into a family of beautiful Latin women," says the designer. "They formed my idea of what women should look like. The reality is all women have hips. All women have curves. All women have cleavage."

The designer’s architecture based vision and impeccable take on a women’s figure has earned him many recognitions worldwide, and the Latin community recently awarded him an Alma Award for Special Achievement in Fashion.

Narciso Rodríguez is not immune to career trouble though. His parents didn’t approved his fashion career, because they wanted him to be a lawyer or a doctor and in 2006 he ran into a debt of $1 million upon a disagreement with his financial sponsors.

"No matter how many times I heard ‘No,’ I just kept going," says the designer, who’s launching a new fragrance in January 2009. "I never thought about ‘no’. ‘No’ was never an option."


Photos courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.