Verbatim: An Interview with Carolina Herrera

Carolina Herrera
Carolina Herrera

Anyone who knows fashion, knows that for the last 20 years Carolina Herrera has helped todefine the modern glamorous woman. On the eve of her visit to Saks Jandel in Washington, toshowcase her spring collection in its entirety, Washington Life sat down with CarolinaHerrera to discuss her plans for the future and the career that has made her into aninternational fashion empire.

Washington Life:What makes your clothing so appealing to so many different generations of women?

Carolina Herrera:They are very feminine, not too avant-garde. You get sickof things that are too avant-garde, you take it out of the closet six months laterand wonder what you were thinking. It has to be sophisticated, it has to be easyto wear, not so trendy. When you have too many trends, fashion is destroyed.It has to have a certain individuality to look well on you.

WL:You recently introduced a new collection in Europe. What are your plansand goals for the CH Carolina Herrera line in the US?

CH:Itís a different collection that is starting in Europe. Right now thereare 12 free standing stores in Spain and Portugal, and also one in Coral Gables,Florida. More boutiques are planned to open throughout Europe in Paris,Rome, London and Milano, and also in the United States in California and NewYork initially. The CH line is for men and for women.

WL:How would you describe the difference bet ween CH Carolina Herreraand your existing collection Carolina Herrera New York?

CH:Itís a different price point with more than just clothes. There is mostlycasual wear and some evening attire too. There are shoes, handbags, babycarriages, throws, gloves and other accessories. The CH Carolina Herreracollection is really meant to complement the Carolina Herrera New York collection.It is more weekend wear for women, and of course the expansion into menswear.

WL:You have five fragrances, bridal, accessories, handbags, and your newline, CH. Whatís next for you?

CH:I always have projects in mind. Over the next year the first fragrancesthat I created, called Carolina Herrera and Herrera for Men, are beingrelaunched. In August 2003, we will be introducing a new scent Carolina,and then in 2004, the Chic for Men fragrance. Plus, we have all these openingsin Europe. Those stores are really beautiful, the design concept is that they arevery cozy and warm. They look like a house, because thereís a fireplace, somehave pool tables, and there are books. You want to go in and stay.

WL:You have led a varied and interesting life beginning in Caracas, then inthe avant-garde art scene in New York with friends like Andy Warhol, and invarious international circles. Where do you draw your inspiration from and yourideas about fashion?

CH:You know everything helps, but really inspiration is something that isalways with you. Itís about memory. Everything influences you, walking onthe street, traveling. I can see a painting and get inspiration from the color.

WL:How do you define glamor?

CH:Glamor, I think was invented in America. It comes from Hollywood,particularly in the time of the glamorous 1930s. Many women are afraid ofbeing called glamorous today, because they donít want to be calledold-fashioned. Women connect glamorous with being old-fashioned, and would prefer tobe called modern and chic.

WL:You have spoken many times before about the first couture runway show youattended, Balenciaga, and how it heavily influenced you.

CH:I went with my grandmother instead of staying in the hotel with mynanny. It was not an influence on me, because I was so much more interestedin tennis, horses, and many other things. I was not interested yet in being afashion designer until the 1980s. But I do remember that show very well because itwas so quiet. There was total silence. It was an impressive way to show clothes,very different from today. And the clothes were very beautiful.

WL:What made you become interested in fashion design later on?

CH:I like changing and doing different things. Diana Vreeland and otherfriends pushed me to do something in fashion, encouraging me to createmy own collection. But I always liked clothes. I love seeing women lookelegant, showing off their best attributes.

WL:Other designers that you admire?

CH:A lot of them. Yves Saint Laurent has been fantastic. Galliano is a genius.He has a creativity that has no end. Chanel, because I think sherevolutionized the way that women dress. I think Valentino is fantastic, his workmanshipis unbeatable. Halston and Bill Blass are very good American designers. Blassnever confused his taste or sophistication with anything else. He had this greatidea to dress women any way that they liked. Itís a very American notion.

WL:You have won numerous awards including those from Brideís Magazine,American Perfume Association, International Fashion Center, PrattInstitute, and of course, for years you have appeared on the InternationalBest-Dressed List. Is there an award that you have not won yet that youídlike to receive?

CH:I am always very deeply touched when I get awards, so I need a lot ofthem. You cannot be blasť, you cannot be spoiled about it. It is very, veryflattering! I am always very grateful for what I receive, and would love to receivemore!

WL:How much of your line is available in Washington, D.C., and how well doyou do here?

CH:A lot of the line is available at Saks Jandel and Saks Fifth Avenue. I dovery well in Washington. I will be in Washington at Saks Jandel on December8th. I am very excited about it. We are going to show the spring collection. It'sgreat for ladies to see the whole collection together.

WL:Do you think you will ever open a store in Washington?

CH:Iím sure I am going to open a store in Washington eventually.

WL:You dressed Jacqeline Kennedy Onassis, almost exclusively for the latteryears of her life.

CH:I did not dress her exclusively, but I dressed her a lot in the last twelve yearsof her life. She was a great inspiration. She had impeccable taste. She alwaysknew what looked good on her. This is a trait most women donít have, and if theydo not, they should get help. I always like to say the most importantaccessory for a woman is a full-length mirror. I have also dressed Nancy Reagan,and now Mrs. Bush, who is looking fantastic. I am a great admirer of bothwomen. Mrs. Bush is very soignťe, so it is easy to dress her.

WL:What are your opinions on how women in Washington dress?

CH:Every city has its own style. Washington women are more classic.You have more formal parties, more politicians, and more dinners, not likein New York. I like the classic look. It makes women look very feminine andvery put together.