Carolina Herrera

Emily M. Orr

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA036

Born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1939, Carolina Herrera grew up in a distinguished family, who introduced her to fashionable society at a young age. For her thirteenth birthday, she accompanied her grandmother to Paris, where they met Cristobal Balenciaga and attended his haute couture show. After her first marriage ended in divorce, Carolina worked in public relations for one of her favorite designers, Emilio Pucci. In 1968, she married Venezuelan aristocrat Reinaldo Herrera, who later became special projects editor of Vanity Fair. Carolina distinguished her personal style at special events; she first appeared on the annual Best Dressed List in 1971 and in 1980 she joined the Best Dressed List International Hall of Fame.

In 1980, Carolina moved to New York with her husband and four daughters. She intended to start a company designing fabrics, but at the encouragement of American Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, she began making clothing instead. In 1981 Herrera showed her first couture collection at New York’s Metropolitan Club. The designs were notable for their exaggerated shoulders. Saks Fifth Avenue immediately expressed interest and women were drawn to the designs for their femininity and wearability. The designer’s luncheon suits and ball gowns appealed to celebrities, socialites, and political figures, including First Ladies Jacqueline Onassis and Nancy Reagan. In 1986, she made Caroline Kennedy’s wedding gown and the following year launched the Couture Bridal collection for which she is still well known.

Black-and-white polka dots and hourglass silhouettes characterized her early garments. In 1988, Carolina expanded into perfume with the fragrance Carolina Herrera. In 1989 she introduced the Carolina Herrera II sportswear line, reincarnated in 2001 as CH Carolina Herrera, the house’s expanded sportswear and accessories line for men, women, and children. In 1992, she launched the new lines Herrera for Men, Herrera Studio, and W by Carolina Herrera. Beginning in the late 1980s, Herrera licensed designs for eyewear, bags, scarves, and costume jewelry and in 2011 she released her own eyewear collection. Her daughters have collaborated with her on various projects.

Carolina Herrera’s classic taste and flattering tailoring remain benchmarks of her design production; meanwhile, her style had modernized from ladylike pastel suits with shoulder pads to more youthful designs by the late 1990s, and elegant day and evening wear today. A recipient of many honors for her contributions to the fashion industry, Carolina was awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, and in 2012 she received the Fashion Group International Superstar Award and an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.

Carolina Herrera, Fall/Winter 1983 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Buck Juliet. ““Fashion: In Her 60s: Queen Carolina”.” Vogue , August 2004: 286–287 .

Find in Library Kotur Alexandra. Carolina Herrera: Portrait of a Fashion Icon . New York : Assouline, 2004.

Find in Library Morris Bernadine. ““For Carolina Herrera, Tranquility Amid Success”.” The New York Times , 4 January 1994: D21 .

Find in Library Steele Valerie. Women of Fashion: Twentieth-Century Designers . New York : Rizzoli, 1991.

Find in Library Visal Soledad. “Carolina Herrera.” In Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia , edited by Vicki Ruíz and Virginia Sánchez Korrol , pp.324–325. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 2006 .