Swan Song

She holds the record for having dressed more First Ladies in the White House than any other designer in history,

Getty
Getty

She was friends with Andy Warhol, who did her portrait in exchange for her gold-mesh-and-diamond Van Cleef & Arpels minaudière (a bejeweled clutch).

Andy took it and played with it all night long. When he returned it he said, ‘If you give it to me, I will give you your portrait in exchange.’ I said, ‘Take it, it’s yours.’ And that was that. 

“Carolina Herrera,” 1979, acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 40 x 40 in., by Andy Warhol. " width="565" height="560" /> “Carolina Herrera,” 1979, acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 40 x 40 in., by Andy Warhol.
Carolina Herrera,” 1979, acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 40 x 40 in., by Andy Warhol; My photo from CH

She was photographed by a young Robert Mapplethorpe, who had to convince her to pose,

He would say, ‘You have to let me photograph you,’ and I would say, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘Because I’m going to be so famous, and you’re going to be so mad you didn’t!'”

Carolina Herrera; Robert Mapplethorpe; 1976
Carolina Herrera; Robert Mapplethorpe; 1976
Carolina Herrera; Robert Mapplethorpe; 1979
Carolina Herrera; Robert Mapplethorpe; 1979

Her dresses graced many a red carpet,

Emmy Rossum; Met Gala 2014
Emmy Rossum; Met Gala 2014

and the world stage.

Queen Letizia; Carolina Herrera dress; March 2017
Queen Letizia; Carolina Herrera dress; March 2017; Image via About Her
The Duchess of Cambridge; CH Carolina Herrera coat; PRESS ASSOCIATION
The Duchess of Cambridge; CH Carolina Herrera coat; PRESS ASSOCIATION

 

It all began when Caroline Herrara, 42, society swan, style icon, and mother of four, consulted her friend, Diana Vreeland, with an idea of designing fabrics. Fortunately for fashion, she heeded the legendary Vogue editor’s advice:

Oh, that’s so boring. Why don’t you do something else? Why don’t you do a collection of dresses? It’s much more fun.

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Image via Carolina Herrera/The House Story

And so in 1981, Carolina Herrera debuted her first collection at the Metropolitan Club in New York.

They never had a show there before mine. It was a madhouse. I had live music, a pianist playing Cole Porter songs. I thought it was divine, but there were many problems. Some of the models’ looks weren’t even finished. Iman’s hem wasn’t done, so we had to use pins, but she was so happy to work with the pins, and she looked fabulous.

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Image via Carolina Herrera

Perhaps in tribute to that first show, Cole Porter was the soundtrack to Herrera’s final show at the Museum of Modern Art last month.

After 72 shows and 37 years, the supremely elegant Carolina Herrera (79) took her final bow after presenting her Fall 2018 collection.

Getty
Getty

Herrera is steeping into a new role in her eponymous company, that of Global Brand AmbassadorShe is adamantly not retiring, but rather, moving forward, by handing over the creative director reigns to 31 year-old Wes Gordon, her creative consultant for the past year.

Vincent Tullo; The New York Times
Vincent Tullo; The New York Times

Her clothes are not street, edgy, hip or cool. She doesn’t do shocking show-your-derriere nude dresses. Herrera definitively does not follow fads. She does, however, make some of the sexiest dresses because she believes in restraint, subtlety, and a little mystery.

Carolina Herrera Fall 2017
Carolina Herrera Fall 2017

For me, fashion is about originality, sophistication and beauty. I’m not in the fashion business; I’m in the beauty business.

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Carolina Herrera Pre-Fall 2013 Collection; Image via Vogue

Her clothing is contemporary, classic, yet with a modern twist each new season. Her legions of faithful customers always look well-dressed. Her beautiful daughters style their mother’s clothes in disparate ways and show just how versatile the pieces are.

Carolina Herrera de Báez
Carolina Herrera de Báez; Image via The Telegraph

If ever there is a testament to finding your style and staying true to it, it is Carolina Herrera. The daughter of a former Governor of Caracas, Herrera married into Spanish nobility and was a socialite before she was a designer. As she says, her eyes were accustomed to beautiful things. With her impeccable taste and sophisticated fashions, she created many more.

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CH ON FASHION

… fashion has changed a lot. What they like now is ugliness. Women dress in a very strange way. Like clowns. There is a lot of pressure to change all the time. But it’s better to wear what suits you. Add something new and you have a great look. Consistency is important.

Nigel Parry
Nigel Parry

…a white blouse always fits the bill. .. They go better than anything else with certain outfits, short skirts as well as pants, and even long evening skirts. They’re also very flattering, because they light up one’s face. But they have to look neat, well-ironed, buttons in perfect condition. I’m always saying that about clothes. What good does it do you to wear an expensive dress if one of the buttons is falling off or if it hasn’t been properly ironed? Or to wear really expensive shoes if they’re dusty and scuffed?

~Carolina Herrera, AARP interview

CH ON STYLE

It is difficult to define style.It’s not what you’re wearing but how you wear it. It’s a personal thing and reflected in the way you arrange your house, your taste in books and art—the personal stamp you give to everything you touch.

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CH ON AGEING GRACEFULLY

The secret to ageing gracefully is knowing what looks good on you at all ages. If you try to dress in a young way when you’re old, you’re going to look even older. Shorts, for example, are for young people with lovely legs.

~Carolina Herrera, The Wall Street Journal, 2015

Photo: INEZ VINOODH; W MAGAZINE 2014
Photo: INEZ VINOODH; W MAGAZINE 2014

 

THE CH INFLUENCE

Although I’ve never owned any of Carolina Herrera’s clothes (sad face), I love her sartorial ethos—clothes that are smart and elegant and that don’t change with the trends or even the seasons. Timeless classics. I’ve had a black silk ball skirt in my closet for years and years, and now I know what to wear with it thanks to the show finale. Now the only question is the colour of the belt. Red?

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Carolina Herrera, Fall 2018. Photo: Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

WATCH THE CAROLINE HERRERA FALL 2018 SHOW

VIEW THE CAROLINE HERRERA FALL 2018 COLLECTION: Vogue

Image via Carolina Herrera
Image via Carolina Herrera

PURCHASE THE COLLECTION: M’Oda ‘Operandi; Neiman Marcus

Image via Carolina Herrera
Image via Carolina Herrera

READ THE BOOKS: Carolina Herrera: 35 Years of Fashion

RIZZOLI
RIZZOLI

Carolina Herrera (Classics)

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CAROLINA HERRERA: Website; Instagram; YouTube; Facebook

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Carolina Herrera, 1994, Photograph: Serge de Yugoslavia; My photo from the book, Carolina Herrera.

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