Carolina Herrera, the epitome of chic and one of my favorite designers, was born and raised in Venezuela to a father in aviation who later became the governor of Caracas and the country’s foreign affairs minister. She has routinely given interviews about her upbringing, noting that she often flew with her mother and grandmother to design houses in Paris (Balenciaga and Lanvin – swoon!), where they would get custom garments made for them. (We should all be so lucky.)
After her first divorce, she turned her stylish background, and likely some of her connections, into a career as a publicist for Emilio Pucci. She is often quoted as saying that it’s important to have something for yourself because “beauty is the first thing to go.” It was during her work with the Italian designer she met her second husband. After they wed, they lead a very jet-set lifestyle (The kind us peasants only dream of) and their travels and celebrity social circles (read: Andy Warhol) made her a staple on international best dressed lists. (Take a look around the internet for pictures of her. She’s stunning and always effortlessly chic and amazing. Such class! I find she’s mostly photographed in either ball gowns at events, or her iconic collared shirt.)
Once in her thirties, the family moved to New York where because of her timeless style, she was encouraged to design a line of clothing. She even had the support of Diana Vreeland, former columnist for Harpers Bazaar and editor of Vogue. With that kind of support and encouragement, the world is your proverbial oyster! However, not having any backing for production, she paired up with her dressmaker in Caracas and in a friend’s apartment in New York in the fall of 1980, she was able to show twenty or so dresses. Guess what? The buyers LOVED them. Some wanted to buy the complete line, but she had no production team. Well, it wasn’t hard for her to find support and investors after that. By spring of 1981 her first full collection was shown.
Starting out with about twelve employees, she grew her empire, designing one of a kind pieces for clients like Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy and Estee Lauder. It wasn’t until after designing Caroline Kennedy’s wedding dress in 1986, that she became a household name overnight. She was one of the first designers in the 80’s to begin rocking shoulder pads, very nonchalantly saying that it was “nothing new,” since she was drawing inspiration from the Elizabethan times. Over the years she expanded her empire from haute couture to ready-to-wear.
With her kind of shrewd business sense, ability to see designs, knowledge of what looks best on a woman’s body, chic style, and an eye for details, it’s no wonder that she has remained a top designer. With that, lets take a look at my favorite pieces from her spring collection:
She’s playing with all of the trends that are huge for spring, but in a sophisticated, classic way. This is a difficult feat to accomplish: to be on trend, but remain elegant and classic. The geometric prints and colorblocking, for example, she paired with a sheer overlay to soften the harsh lines. The bright, playful tangerine color of the fourth look is still elegant in a classic silhouette. The volume and drama of the floor-length skirt is paired with a the simplicity of a classic yellow t-shirt.
It’s a stunning collection, with all of the best spring has to offer. If you have the time and you’ve never watched a runway show before, or even if you have and you love them, go to style.com and check it out. You can scroll through look by look and watch the collection morph and expand. It’s truly breathtaking, wearable art.
What’s the moral here? Dress for the job you WANT and not the job you HAVE… CH always looked chic and it was that style, combined with business sense and connections, that got her where she is today.
(Featured image of Carolina Herrera via Harpers Bazaar)