Icon: Carolina Herrera

As a South American designer, I have great admiration for female artist who have been able to make it outside their country.  Carolina Herrera is such a woman.  Traditionally, although this is changing more and more, the role of women has not been one of an entrepreneur. Against all odds, Carolina Herrera broke many rules, and here is her success story.  

Carolina Herrera, fashion icon

Carolina Herrera was born Maria Carolina Josefina Pacanins y Nino in 1939 in Caracas, Venezuela. She was the second child of four born to Guillermo and Maria Cristina Pacanins. Herrera descends from a long line of Venezuelan landowners and statesmen, and was raised as a socialite. At 13, she attended her first couture show, Cristobal Balenciaga, in Paris, France with her grandmother. Carolina grew up in a world where women only wore couture.

Portrait of a young Carolina Herrera
by her friend Andy Warhol
This portrait still hangs in her office to this day

Of her childhood, Carolina has said that her mother, Maria, was strict, but not in a loud way. She believed that there was a time and place for everything, and expected a lot from her children. Carolina's mother instilled discipline and structure in her kids, which Carolina credits to her success in the fashion industry.

Carolina as a teen in Venezuela

Young Carolina, always stylish

At 18, Carolina married Guillermo Behrens Tello, and had two daughters with him. At 25, she became the first member of her family to divorce. She then married her first love, the late Reinaldo Herrera, and had two more daughters. Her daughters are Mercedes, Ana Luisa, Carolina Adriana, and Patricia. They lived in Venezuela in a house called La Vega, which was built in 1590. Carolina never really worked as a young woman, her only work experience was doing public relations for Pucci's.

In 1980, Herrera received a positive reaction to a fashion collection she had created as "a test" by her friend and fashion editor, Diana Vreeland. This response prompted Herrera to move to New York, where she formed Carolina Herrera, Ltd. Compared to others in the fashion industry, she was getting a late start, beginning her line at the age of 40. In 1988, she launched her first fragrance, CH. In 1991, she released CH for Men. She now has eight fragrances under her name.

Gorgeous bride by Carolina Herrera

Most critics believed that Carolina would be just another socialite dabbling in fashion when she moved to New York City.  Her gorgeous creations and attention to detail proved them wrong. Today, she currently is overseeing an international design firm that encompasses her signature fashion collections, 212 Men and 212 Carolina Herrera for Women, a bridal collection, fragrances, color cosmetics and accessories.

Carolina at work

The Carolina Herrera look is sleek, chic and glamorous. She said, "I love the idea of elegance and intricacy, but whether it is in a piece of clothing or a fragrance, the intricacy must appear as simplicity." She is frequently named to best dressed lists all over the world, and in 2004 she received the Council of Fashion Designers of America's (CFDA) Womenswear Designer of the Year Award.

At the 2004 CFDA awards
with Beyonce in her design.

As far as work ethic goes, Carolina is a class act.  She is well regarded by her peers and employeed for the way she runs her business. Herrera insists that her workdays and her colleagues begin at 9:00am and end at 5:00pm, yet she still finds time to get plenty done. Also, unlike some popular designers, she designs everything that is sold under her label herself.

Carolina Herrera and actres Renee Zellweger

Carolina Herrera has dressed luminaries such as Renee Zellweger and First Lady Laura Bush. She was also the exclusive designer for Jackie Onassis Kennedy for the last 12 years of her life.

Herrera is currently living in New York City on the Upper East Side. Her daughter Carolina Adriana, or Carolina Jr., has begun to help with her mother's collection. Carolina says her daughter has been great inspiration for her designs.

Carolina and her daughter Carolina Jr.

Women like Carolina Herrera are a great inspiration to me.  Her fabulous style and the way she has been able to grow her business are two things that have always encouraged me, and I hope to one day have her level of international success. Cheers to an amazing woman! 

Love Always
Dani K

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