Top designers: Carolina Herrera

Carolina Herrera, the designer

"I love the idea of elegance and intricacy, but whether it's in a piece of clothing or a fragrance, the intricacy must appear as simplicity", says Carolina Herrera, the 2008 CFDA winner of the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, of the aesthetic sense that has driven her for over 30 years as a fashion designer. “I think that standard has served me well; women seem to love my clothes. I am extremely grateful for the success that they have given me."

Spoken without a stitch of ego, the statement reveals a great deal about Carolina Herrera. Her entirely straightforward approach toward her business, which Herrera founded after being prompted by fashion legend Diana Vreeland and her great friend, the late Count Rudi Crespi, is perfectly balanced by her fully impassioned feelings towards her family and home life: her parents; her husband, Reinaldo Herrera; her four daughters, Mercedes, Ana Luisa, Carolina and Patricia; La Vega, the family house in Venezuela built in 1590, and of course, her dogs, Gaston, Gaspar and Olivia.

Carolina oversees an international design firm that encompasses her signature fashion collection, a bridal collection and fragrances and accessories. Sales extend around the world (the U.S., South America, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East). "I started doing this because I loved fashion", she says. "But I had no idea what it would turn into. I can only say that I am very lucky my mother instilled such discipline and structure in my life!"

carolina-herreraHerrera, born in Caracas, Venezuela, descends from a long line of Venezuelan landowners and statesmen. The designer underscores her affection for her parents, Guillermo and Maria Cristina Pacanins, admitting that she has been "spoiled as far as men's looks are concerned" because her father was so dashing. She refers with love to her mother's sophisticated aura. "She was very strict, but without being tyrannical", Herrera adds. "There was a time and place for everything. I have carried this idea with me all my life."

That noble sensitivity, combined with a captivating charm, enabled Herrera to make the transition from her halcyon days as a chic and renowned beauty on the international scene - where she spent days with royals and nights with the Warhol crowd - to a designer with such talent and business acumen that she could not be ignored.

After receiving a positive reaction to a fashion collection she created in 1981 as a “test,” she moved with her family to New York from Caracas and formed Carolina Herrera, Ltd. Her exquisitely detailed and expertly crafted creations were an immediate success. Chic, sophisticated women all over the world turned to Herrera's label for the type of impeccable suits, dresses and gowns that she instinctively knew how to design - the legacy of having grown up in a world where women wore only haute couture. Herrera herself had attended her first couture show, that of Cristobal Balenciaga, at the age of 13 with her grandmother.

In 1988 Herrera expanded her business with the launch of her first fragrance, Carolina Herrera, a heady and romantic blend of the tuberose and jasmine essences she had always worn. A men’s fragrance, Carolina Herrera for Men, emerged in 1991. In 1994, Herrera debuted her third scent, the floral Floré. For her latest endeavor, Herrera credits her daughter Carolina as muse and collaborator in the creation of her newest fragrances, 212 and 212 MEN, launched in 1997 and 1999 respectively. These fresh, sensual fragrances offer a cosmopolitan and fascinating reflection of the modern world. CHIC, from this collaboration, appeared in 2001. The ultra-contemporary prism bottle design is a tribute to modern art and freedom of expression.

Herrera states that “light and color are basic elements in all my creations. Their shapes and colors are both classic and modern, inspired by contemporary American art.”

Two years later, in 2003, Carolina was born, a young and modern scent that is highly reminiscent of more classic fragrances. Taking its inspiration from the same idea, the fresh and sensual fragrance Herrera Aqua was launched in 2005, created for the elegant, masculine and confident man.

In search of new challenges and again born of a close mother-daughter collaboration, 212Sexy debuted in 2004, a fragrance that maintains the essence of 212, with a warm and sensual tone. Two years later, in 2006, 212Sexy MEN arrived, complete with the distinctive touch of the original fragrance.

Then, in 2007, continuing the tradition, Carolina worked with her mother to create and launch the company’s latest fragrance, CH Carolina Herrera, a scent which, like her fashion, can be worn morning to night, for any occasion: at work, at leisure or for informal meetings, adaptable to anything. Elegant, sophisticated and easy to wear, it was created for women who adore elegant, accessible and classic luxury. On the heels of this worldwide success came CH MEN in 2009, its masculine counterpart, a fragrance created along with her daughter, and inspired by the same principles of elegance, accessibility and savoir faire that define the brand. Following an expansion strategy within the fragrances division in 2010 the brand launched 212VIP, another project undertaken along with daughter Carolina, creating a feminine fragrance that captures the energy of New York and the people who live in it. The new VIPs: talented, stylish people with a sense of humor. Authentic and attractive people you want be with.

In a business climate that says "evolve or die", Herrera thrives, also designing and manufacturing a successful and interesting eyewear collection. The world's finest stores sell her fashion and fragrances. The first Carolina Herrera flagship boutique opened in the fall of 2000 on Madison Avenue in a 4-story landmark building, its interior capturing the elegance, luxury and sophisticated modernity typical of Carolina Herrera. Also, in July 2006, a Los Angeles Boutique was opened in the emblematic and exclusive Melrose Place. The design and décor of this new West Coast facility, covering 3,800 square feet, clearly reflects the elegance, luxury and sophistication of the Madison Avenue flagship store. Following up on this expansion, the brand opened a third exclusive boutique in Highland Park, Dallas (Texas) in March of 2008, followed by a fourth store opening in Bal Harbor (Florida) in 2009, and yet another in 2010, in Las Vegas, Nevada. All these stores emanate the brand’s hallmark values: elegance, luxury and femininity.

In 2001 Carolina Herrera presented CH Carolina Herrera, a more casual and accessible line which currently features over 70 stores, distributed throughout Europe (Spain, Portugal, Great Britain and France), the U.S., Latin America (Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela) and the Middle East (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Lebanon).

All of them feature an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere through the use of simple while sophisticated materials in both their décor and their accessories and collections.

"With my designs and my fragrances", Herrera says, "I think it is better to be realistic, but not to ever forget to mix a little fantasy in with the reality. Actually, it's just like in life."

Carolina Herrera Ltd, the company

A company with great personality and charm. Carolina Herrera Ltd. is a referent for luxury, exclusiveness, sophistication and elegance in the world of fashion. With this principle as guiding light, Carolina Herrera Ltd. has broadened its sights to reflect the needs and lifestyle of twenty-first century woman.

carolina-herreraIn 1981, when she presented her first collection and founded her company, the designer Carolina Herrera was already very clear about the style of the woman she wanted to dress. From her collections, presented twice a year in New York, she has always been faithful to her fashion house entire repertoire from elegant but always comfortable daywear to marvelous evening dresses to breathtaking bridal gowns.

Since the first boutique opened its doors in 2000 in Madison Avenue, New York the signature has now 5 flagship stores in the United States: Melrose Place, Los Angeles (2006), Highland Park, Dallas (2008), Bal Harbour, Florida (2008) and Las Vegas, Nevada (2009). All of the stores offer the complete signature Carolina Herrera New York line.

The name of Carolina Herrera is also known for her fragrances. In 1988, she created the first Carolina Herrera essence. Since then, and with the collaboration of her daughter Carolina, she launched ten successful fragrances such as 212, CH and the latest 212VIP. Widely acclaimed worldwide, her perfumes consolidated Carolina Herrera as a rising value in the world of perfumery.

With the creation in 2001 of CH Carolina Herrera, the brand has been increasingly expanding into the luxury accessories sector with handbags and eyewear. Today this lifestyle line is present throughmore than 70 exclusive stores and more than 150 shop-in-shops in Europe, the United States, Latin America and the Middle East.

The Carolina Herrera name is well recognized internationally thanks to her prestigious profile, class and style, the success of her business and continual international coverage for her fashion collections.

The influence of Carolina Herrera Ltd. from New York on the world of fashion is clearly evident in the expectations created by the presentation of each collection. Success follows in the wake of her fragrances, and the opening of each free-standing CH Carolina Herrera line stores is a real event.

See Carolina Herrera's Spring 2012 bridal runway collection here.

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