updated 10/08/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 10/08/1979 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Victor Caraballo, 27, founded his own New York fashion firm last year after apprenticing with Halston and Givenchy—"my maestros." Already his designs are appearing from Bergdorf Goodman to Neiman-Marcus. In addition to his $110-to-$1,000 off-the-rack line, Caraballo does couture for clients like Altovise Davis (Mrs. Sammy Jr.) and model Cristina Ferrare (above). He finds inspiration, he says, everywhere, from the exotica at Studio 54 to the manta ray of his Puerto Rican heritage (whence Ferrare's caftan). Son of a carpenter, Victor won a scholarship to San Juan's Wesleyan Academy and to "look proper" stitched permanent creases in the trousers of his uniform. Though Caraballo never wanted to be anything but a designer, he entered the University of Puerto Rico (at 15) to major in English. The day after completing his studies he flew to New York with 35¢ in his pocket and slept in the streets for three nights. Eventually he lucked into an assistant's job with Halston. A subsequent three-month stint with Givenchy in Paris taught him, says Victor, "the difference between chic and elegance." Desolate over the death of his father last year, Caraballo poured himself into his work, and created an entire spring collection in nine days. Halston, magnanimously and proudly, not only forecasts commercial success for his protégé but adds: "I'm confident Victor will make a fashion statement."