When you think of designer Carolina Herrera, you probably think about classic glamour and elegance—that’s been the premise behind all of her fabulous collections for the past 40 years. Herrera’s brand is timeless, yet stylish and we love everything from her gorgeous wedding gowns to her famous collared shirts.
Here’s a look at how Herrera’s dreams of becoming a fashion designer came to fruition and how her brand continues to thrive today.
How It All Began
Carolina Herrera was born in Venezuela in January 1939. She came from a family of statesmen and landowners, but her socialite grandmother was her first introduction to the fashion world. When Herrera was 13, her grandmother took her to a Cristobal Balenciaga couture show and treated her to outfits at Lanvin and Dior.
At the age of 18 in 1957, Herrera married a Venezuelan landowner and had two daughters before their eventual divorce. Eleven years later, she married Reinaldo Herrera Guevara and had two more daughters.
In 1965, Herrera began her career working as a publicist for a close family friend, Emilio Pucci, in his boutique in Venezuela. She was already a great dresser, and soon became well known for her dramatic style.
In 1972 she first appeared on the International Best Dressed list and was elected into its Hall of Fame in 1980—the same year she decided to move to New York. There, Herrera was a frequent visitor at hotspot Studio 54, where she often visited with Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol, and became friends with Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland.
It was Vreeland who first encouraged Herrera to design her own collection. She had samples made in Venezuela, showcased them at a well-known Park Avenue boutique and her fashion empire was born.
Since Herrera had no real company at the time, she searched for a financial backer and found publishing tycoon Armando de Armas who agreed to finance her. This led to Herrera opening her first showroom and first full collection in 1981—Carolina Herrera New York.
The luxurious collection was full of fitted clothes and padded shoulders, very different from the trends of the day: loose skirts and no-shape blouses.
Fast forward to 1986, when Herrera was asked to design a wedding dress for the daughter of a dear friend of hers. That bride was Caroline Kennedy. The Kennedy dress launched Herrera into an overnight sensation across North America, leading the company to expand into custom-made dresses, bridal wear and a diffusion line within a year.
Herrera introduced her first bridal collection in 1987 and just a year later she landed a fragrance deal with Puig, a family-owned fashion and beauty business based in Barcelona.
By 1994, Herrera’s partnership with Armas had ended and Puig took over his share of the company. The group decided to retain Herrera as the creative director of the brand where she went on to launch many other successful collections both bridal and fashion.
Today, Herrera’s gowns are impeccable. The dramatic details, stunning silhouettes and luxurious fabrics make Herrera one of the most sought-out designers in the wedding industry today. Brides can expect to pay top-dollar for Herrera’s designs, ranging from $4,000 to $15,000.
As she gained more fame, Herrera realized she also needed more space. In 2000, she opened her first flagship boutique on Madison Avenue and 75th Street in New York. She then expanded abroad and opened a shop in Madrid with her ready-to-wear lifestyle collection.
Since then, Herrera has opened over 18 boutiques around the world and her designs are featured in more than 280 individual stores.
Herrera has not only made her name in the wedding world but also in world-wide fashion and beauty circles. She has launched a number of collections outside of the bridal industry including eyewear, her long-lasting satin-finish lipstick and her ever-popular fragrances.
As mentioned before, her first fragrance, a jasmine scent, launched in 1988 with Puig. Jasmine has been a key ingredient for all of Herrera’s female fragrances, especially since her daughter Carolina joined the brand as Beauty Creative Director in 1996.
But Herrera’s most successful fragrance to date is her 2016 “Good Girl” fragrance—a sweet and feminine scent filled with notes of jasmine, cocoa, tonka and almond. New for 2020 is the Carolina Herrera Makeup collection, a luxurious range of customizable cosmetics from powder and lipsticks to mattifiers and highlighters. (Seriously, there are so many beautiful choices that are perfect to use for your wedding makeup!)
Each piece can be customized with a different cover, charm or colorful accessory.
A woman with these many talents is sure to gain a few accolades. In 2004 Herrera received the “Woman of the Year” award from Glamour and “Womenswear Designer of the Year” from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, where she’s been on the board since 1999.
She also received the “Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement” award from the CFDA in 2008. Her 2011 collection landed her the title of “Mercedes-Benz Presents” and a year later she won the “Fashion Group International Superstar” award. In 2012 she received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
These awards, along with many others, have just been a few of Herrera’s crowning moments. An extra fun fact: Herrera has been on the cover of Vogue SEVEN times. Talk about a lifetime of amazing achievements!
Herrera was at the helm of her company for nearly 38 years and just recently handed off her Creative Director hat to her creative consultant, American designer Wes Gordon. Herrera took her final bow at her 73rd show in 2018, after presenting her Fall 2018 collection at the Museum of Modern Art.
She is now considered a Global Brand Ambassador for the company.
Our Fave Carolina Herrera Looks
Although Herrera may not be the creative head behind her fashion powerhouse anymore, her design team is still releasing some amazing looks in the wedding and fashion world.
Here’s a sneak peek of her upcoming collections, plus a look back at her top work throughout the years.
Fall is in full swing, but we are already looking forward to next summer! The Summer 2021 collection is totally inspiring, and Creative Director Wes Gordon had a very clear vision when building this collection.
“I wanted to create a collection that is a reflection of this moment in our lives, through the prism of optimism, color, and celebration of the women that have been part of the fabric of Carolina Herrera,” Gordon said.
“We believe in beauty. We believe in dreams. We believe the antidote to darkness is light. And we believe fashion is magical.”
We couldn’t agree more! We love the contrasting colors, the fun prints and fabrics and that each piece evokes a sense of feminine romance.
We are so in love with the sneak peek at the Fall 2021 bridal collection plus the stunning backdrop for these designs. (Insider note: these were shot on location at Gordon’s farm!)
These dresses bring joy and optimism with exquisite Herrera detail. All three gowns are stunning and have totally different styles to bring to the table. The strapless Pandora ballgown pairs so well with the tulle off-shoulder stole that we thought it was part of the dress!
The satin Paola gown with the draped bodice and back knot detail is amazing. The Paulette tulle drop-waist gown is a total dream with the floral lace applique and Margot veil. Three thumbs up for next year’s bridal collection!
When you’ve had a super-successful design empire for more than 40 years, you’re bound to grab the attention of some top celebrities. As mentioned before, Jaqueline Kennedy’s daughter Caroline was Herrera’s first bride. Kennedy told Herrera exactly what she wanted and didn’t see the dress until it was delivered for her wedding day.
A number of other celebrities have also chosen Herrera for their big day. Model Hilary Rhoda chose a super-elegant ivory gown that featured a pop of green underneath. (So unique!) Broadway star Idina Menzel, aka Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, had an intimate backyard wedding but looked like a total princess in her stunning off-the-shoulder gown.
Actress Emmy Rossum also chose a show-stopping dress that was custom-made by Herrera. The actress said she needed something grand since she was getting married at a temple and the reception was at the Guggenheim.
Herrera totally pulled through with a fresh, modern gown. The off-the-shoulder element was a hint of sexy and is truly romantic.
What we love about Herrera’s clothing is that she appeals to a wide variety of people. From politicians to royalty to movie stars, Herrera caters to everyone.
Kate Middleton has been spotted in many of Herrera’s outfits, but this scarlet double-breasted coat from the CH Carolina Herrera collection has been a favorite for the Duchess.
She first wore it on a trip to Canada in September of 2016 and was photographed again during a 2-day visit to Northern Ireland. Meghan Markle wore a super-cute denim Herrera dress while supporting Prince Harry at the Sentebale Polo 2018 match.
We love the hint of sexy with the v-neckline, the thick belt and of course, pockets!
Herrera’s fashions have been donned everywhere from the red carpet to talk show appearances. Both Priyanka Chopra and Sarah Paulson wore their looks on late night television.
Paulson went bold for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert in a color-block dress from Herrera’s Spring 2018 collection. On The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Chopra dazzled in a colorful confetti outfit from Herrera’s Pre-Fall 2018 collection.
While promoting her film Café Society, a pregnant Blake Lively was super chic (and a little sexy) in her Herrera sugar-pink floral applique minidress. We think she’s rocking it with the plunging neckline and patent heels.
One of our fave Herrera dresses was worn by Zendaya Coleman at the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards. The actress wore a show-stopping poppy red-tiered dress from Herrera’s 2019 collection. We can’t get enough of the off-the-shoulder look paired with the sweet & sassy layers of the skirt.
Did we mention that even politicians love Herrera’s designs? Former First Lady Michelle Obama has worn several of Herrera’s pieces, but we adored the dress she wore to the state dinner in 2014.
She looked stunning in the beautiful ballgown—from the glittery black lace to the full powder blue skirt, she truly dazzled for the dinner. Ivanka Trump, daughter of current president Donald Trump, looked absolutely beautiful in another blue dress by Herrera.
The tie-sleeve sparkle-embroidered trench gown was so pretty for the state dinner at Buckingham Palace. Trump paired the dress with a neat bun and pearl accessories.
Kamala Harris made history as the first woman, first Black person and first South Asian American to be elected VP of the U.S., so of course she needed a statement-making outfit for her acceptance speech.
Harris wore a silk bow blouse underneath a white suit by Herrera. Many news outlets pointed out that the color white was a symbolic way of resisting gender inequality during the suffrage movement and thought this was a definite nod to the movement based on Harris’ outfit choice.
When Bella’s bridal gown for the Twilight Saga was finally unveiled, fans lost their minds. Herrera said it took four seamstresses over six months to make the custom-made gown for Kristen Stewart to wear and it was to die for.
The crepe satin and French Chantilly lace gown featured 152 buttons on the back and 17 buttons on each sleeve. The dress was utterly romantic with a timeless sophistication, and Stewart said was very moved and felt like a real bride when she first put on the dress.
Another stunning gown by Herrera was the wedding dress Carrie Bradshaw wore during the Vogue shoot in the Sex & The City movie. The strapless ball gown was super sexy and playful, and the striped ribbon gave off a slight My Fair Lady vibe.
We especially loved the jeweled accents on the bust, plus the matching floral-jeweled headpiece and beautiful birdcage veil.
Herrera said it best when talking about the heart and soul behind her brand. “I have a responsibility to the woman of today,” Herrera said. “To make her feel confident, modern and above all else beautiful.”
We agree that the designer has accomplished this and so much more through her amazing career.
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