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Carolina Herrera: Elegant, Worldly, Accessible
Many fashion designers have great talent. More than anything else, Carolina Herrera’s may be in her sense of personal style. Others from Jackie Onassis to First Lady Michelle Obama have recognized that sense of style and trusted Herrera to dress them in the elegant style that has made her world famous.
Carolina Herrera’s full name at birth was Maria Carolina Josefina Pacanins y Nino. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1939. Her father was an influential man in that area, an air force officer who had also been governor of Caracas. It was Carolina’s grandmother, however, that first got her interested in fashion. Carolina’s grandmother would attend Balenciaga fashion shows and take her granddaughter along, buying the girl expensive outfits. Carolina soon became “accustomed to see pretty things” as she put it.
She still didn’t become a designer right away, however. Instead, she married a Venezuelan landowner, when she was only 18. The couple had two daughters, but soon divorced. It was around that time that she began to work for Emilo Pucci, who happened to be Italian nobility. Pucci owned a boutique in Caracas.
Carolina met another noble, Reinaldo Herrera Guevara, whom she married in 1968, and began a life in pursuit of the pretty things she loved so much. She bought clothing with famous labels like Armani, Mila Schon, Valentino, and Yves Saint-Laurent. Her time was spent in places like Studio 54 with famous faces like Andy Warhol, and Mick and Bianca Jagger. No matter where she went, however, everyone remarked upon her amazing sense of style. By 1972, she was listed among the International Best Dressed list, and became a Hall of Fame member on that list in 1980.
After Carolina’s induction into the Best Dressed Hall of Fame, she was contacted by a friend of hers: the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, Diana Vreeland. It was Vreeland who planted the idea of Carolina Herrera making her own line of clothing. Carolina did just that, making samples in Caracas and showing them off in New York. Soon, her samples were in a Park Avenue boutique. That success prompted Carolina to open her own line of clothing. Her first runway show featured a young Iman, who would go on to become a supermodel.
Carolina Herrera’s brand was an instant hit. Major fashion magazines praised her designs. Some of her high profile clients have included the actress Renee Zellweger, the Duchess Diana de Melo, and Jackie Onassis, who wanted Carolina to provide a dress for her daughter Caroline’s wedding.
Carolina Herrera Fragrances
Drawn by Carolina’s success, the major Spanish perfume company, Puig, offered to develop and market a line of Carolina Herrera fragrances. They still produce these fragrances today, selling them through the more than a dozen Carolina Herrera boutiques and the CH boutiques all over the world. Nearly 300 stores in 104 countries sell items with the Carolina Herrera label.
The first fragrance was launched in 1988, self-titled Carolina Herrera. It embodied the sense of refinement and femininity that made her famous. Top notes of jasmine and tuberose give it an air of elegance, while the warmth of amber and woody tones suffuse the base.
A later line launched under the Carolina Herrera name is 212. The basic fragrance for men is 212 Men, composed of floral, woody, musky tones. It opens with spicy and green notes, with lavender, grapefruit, petitgrain, and bergamot; the heart is green pepper, gardenia, ginger, sage, and violet; the base is composed from sandalwood, labdanum, musk, guaiac wood, incense, and vetiver.
The companion scent, 212 for Women is aimed at younger women, made for those who live the fast-paced urban life of the New York professional. It is an uplifting fragrance made with top notes of bergamot, orange blossom, and mandarin. Floral notes of gardenia, lily, and camellia dominate the heart. The base is composed of bright musk and sandalwood.
Fashion is a rapidly changing field, but the Carolina Herrera label changes rapidly to match, without compromising the elegance her name is known for. She is part of the trend of elegant ball gowns, as well as shorter prom dresses, which are so popular among the younger socialites.
Though she no longer has full control of the label, Carolina Herrera still works as creative director in a number of capacities, as do two of her daughters, following their mother’s legacy. Even as late as 2011 and 2012, she has been winning awards for her contributions to the fashion worlds and she shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.