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Carolina Herrera: 1939—: Fashion Designer

Expanded Business In New Directions

Encouraged by her newfound success—and with the now-firm support of her husband—Herrera continued to expand her business. Her company launched CH, a lower-priced (known as "diffusion") line in 1986, followed by another secondary line in 1989, Carolina Herrera Collection II. The revenues continued to pour in when she launched her fragrance line; the first scent, "Carolina Herrera," debuted in 1988. This signature scent was based on something Herrera had been mixing up herself for years, using a bit of jasmine oil that reminded her of a fragrant bush outside her bedroom as a teen in Caracas. Her fragrance line expanded to include Flore in 1994 and "212," named after the now-coveted New York City area code, in 1997. She is also one of the few women designers to enjoy strong sales for her men's fragrances.

In 2000, after twenty years in business and with retail sales around $250 million annually, Herrera opened her first store, located at Madison Avenue and 75th Street in Manhattan. Fashion businesses launched by other well-connected women around the same time as Herrera's in the 1980s—such as Carolyne Roehm and Jacqueline de Ribes—had long folded. Herrera's design philosophy, though it no longer included padded shoulders, remained timely and alluring. When asked in an In Style profile by Hal Rubenstein what the ultimate wardrobe bestsellers had in common, Herrera replied, "Simplicity. Clothes that are so comfortable you feel naked. I hate watching women who adjust themselves all night." She also eschewed excess. "Too many ruffles, too much skin, too tight is never sexy or glamorous," she declared.

Herrera was looking forward to expansion into Europe as the first decade of the twenty-first century was underway. Her success was all the more impressive given the fact that Herrera maintains that somewhat languid Latin American tempo in which she was raised. She works only at the office, and keeps normal hours. "We don't work overtime in this company," she declared to Koski in the WWD interview. "If you can't do what you have to do between 9 and 5, something is wrong." Her upbeat attitude also endures. "I love what I'm doing," she enthused in the Town & Country interview. "If I had to stop, I would be very upset. The more I do it, the more I love it. Even with all the complications. Even with all the problems. Those don't matter. If I had to do it again, I would do it from the beginning in the very same way."

Herrera draws much of her inspiration from her quartet of now-grown daughters. She and her husband, a special-projects editor for Vanity Fair magazine, maintain homes in Caracas and New York City. In the latter, Herrera "is considered by many the most beautiful woman in New York society," wrote Koski. In typically gracious fashion, Herrera did admit that "Venezuela is famous for its beautiful women," she said in WWD. "You know, every time I get in a cab and I say I'm from Venezuela, the cab driver says, 'You have three Miss Universes and two Miss Worlds!'"



Contemporary Fashion, St. James Press, 1995.

Newsmakers 1997, Issue 4, Gale, 1997.


In Style, June 1, 2000, p. 94.

National Review, October 28, 1996, p. 40.

People, May 12, 1997, p. 186.

Town & Country, September 1997, p. 142.

W, October 2002, p. 96.

Women's Wear Daily, March 2, 1987, p. B26; March 7, 1989, p. 18; May 29, 1990, p. 10; June 18, 1991, p. 6; October 20, 1992, p. 12; August 19, 1997, p. 18; July 19, 2000, p. 5.

—Carol Brennan

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: James Heneghan (1930-) Biography - Personal to Rick Jacobson Biography - PersonalCarolina Herrera: 1939—: Fashion Designer Biography - Married Twice Into Venezuelan Elite, Built Successful Fashion Line, Expanded Business In New Directions