Carolina Herrera Takes Her Final Runway Bow

Carolina Herrera Prima Darling

This evening at the Museum of Modern Art the eyes of the fashion world will be on Carolina Herrera as she takes a final bow after her Fall ’18 show. She is stepping away from day-to-day design duties, and will assume the role of brand ambassador. Wes Gordon has been named Creative Director. It marks the end of an era for New York fashion. She is the last of the old school New York designers. Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Geoffrey Beene and Carolina Herrera were the designers to the elite, the bearers of the torch for refinement and taste.

Carolina Herrera Prima Darling
At the Vanity Fair Party

In the new world order, Mrs. Herrera or Mrs. H. as she is known to her employees, sold her company to the Spanish fragrance giant Puig in 1995, ensuring the longevity of her name. The Carolina Herrera brand, including fragrances and the CH licensed collection now generate a reported 1.4 billion in annual sales.

Carolina Herrera Prima Darling
With Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Lauren at the luncheon to receive the FIT Couture Council Award

I had the pleasure of working for Mrs. Herrera from 2012 to 2016. I was hired to design the knitwear for the collection. Just as I started the job my marriage went into crisis, quickly leading to separation and divorce. The job for me was a lifesaver. My personal life was fraught with adversity and sadness but as soon as I stepped off the elevator into the elegant and orderly world of Carolina Herrera my problems melted from my mind and I could fully concentrate on my work. The happy atmosphere of the offices, the beautiful environment and most of all the warmth and wit of the people I worked with saved me.

Carolina Herrera Prima Darling
Back stage at the Frick for the Fall ’16 collection

At that time it was a small and tight design team lead by the extremely talented Hervé Pierre. Ludwig Heissmeyer was the design director and had been working together with Hervé for many years. Three others were hired around the same time rounding out the team. Through hard work and lots of laughs the new group immediately bonded. Hervé is one of the funniest people I know, it was almost mandated that you had to be funny to pull your weight. And despite the formality of the office, (no paper coffee cups, women were to dress up and wear heels) there was always laughter.

Carolina Herrera Prima Darling
Part of the design team back stage before a show

The light atmosphere came from the top. Mrs. Herrera has a sharp wit and was always joking and laughing. Fittings, which in many design houses can be tense, were usually filled with levity. Held in Hervé’s office Mrs. H. and her daughter Patricia would sit on chairs upholstered in the Herrera brown and white silk stripe. As our ravishing Brazilian house model Renata entered the room in a look to be considered, Mrs. H. would sometimes ask, “and where is she wearing this?” fully expecting the most absurd answer you could think of such as, she’s going to pre-arrange her husbands funeral.

Carolina Herrera Prima Darling
Mrs H. with Hervé Pierre and Patricia Lansing in front

When Mrs. H. arrived at the office it was an event. No matter the season or the weather she was always impeccably elegant. In winter she was resplendent in magnificent furs, in summer her famous crisp white shirt tucked into a skirt and always punctuated with the most magnificent jewelry. Some days her jewels would stop me dead in my tracks and I would have to catch myself from staring. She could wear the most gorgeous pearl and jeweled tassel necklace with a nonchalance that made it all the more appealing. Mrs. H. also had the style and sense to never appear over done, she always looked completely modern and at ease.

I’ll forever be indebted to Carolina Herrera. Through her I’ve made lasting friendships that I could not imagine my life without. I grew as a designer and a person and saw first hand that age is relative and style is forever. On my last day at the company Mrs. H. took me out to lunch along with Ludwig. The company was going through a difficult period but talk at lunch was upbeat. We talked mainly about the future and new possibilities, which was classic Mrs. H., always moving forward.

Carolina Herrera Prima Darling
After the Fall ’15 show

  • Peggy Hagerty Duffy

    This is a lovely tribute. I was so sad to find out Ms. Herrera was stepping down; it’s hard not to be worried that the brand will lose its signature elegance and femininity. Hopefully there will be no paper coffee cups anytime soon.

  • Thanks Peggy, glad you liked it, undoubtedly there will be change but she leaves behind a strong brand DNA and will always remain an inspiration. Tonight for her bow she brought out all the drapers, tailors, seamstresses and cutters, many of whom have been with her for years, they will remain and continue to create beautiful clothes.

  • CD

    Dear .. DEAREST Prima Darling … how wonderful to have written this beautiful story … most journalist can not describe the atmosphere and the culture that reined at Herrera , for the simplest reason that they didn’t live it on a day to day experience …
    It was an extraordinary house … I wont paraphrased what you wrote in your impeccable and stylish English ..
    The best we can do is THANKING her ,,, and the ENTIRE house ( except the President at that time destroyed that house .. !!! in 16 months he vanished , crushed what was built over the last 35 years ) …
    Mrs.. H won at the end .. she got it him fired ,,, but the damages were already big , the house wounded … .
    For me , the house of Herrera was like a beautiful lake … with no waves .. waves are turbulent , noisy .. almost vulgar … in a word .. the contrary of what Mrs. Herrera is all about ..
    A miss opportunity can cost a lost of money and tarnishes a beautiful image
    Its fascinating that in fashion … most of the owners of these fashion houses , the owners of these big groups … try to re invent the wheel by looking at outsiders to take over a big brand without knowing anything about the identity of the founder … when the solution is in their hand …
    Valentino is the only house in the recent years , who was smart enough to find in the design studio of Mr Valentino himself , the right heir .. the right person who was properly trained . who understand perfectly the culture and the vocabulary of the founder …
    Obviously it didn’t happen at Carolina Herrera .. As I wrote .. a miss opportunity .
    I hope that without her ,, the future will be bright for this company .. specially the unique and beyond extraordinary sample rooms …
    For Mrs H … a new chapter is starting for her … but her dress code will remain the same !! a crispy white shirt and her natural chic .. being a style icon doesn’t have an age .. its a gift .

    • Prima Darling

      It was an extraordinary time to be at the House of Herrera and I feel extremely lucky to have experienced it first hand. The beautiful atmosphere and integrity came from the top, Mrs. H. and you set the tone and I thank you for that and for the lasting friendships made there! xxx

    • Hello darling! Thank you for your heartfelt comment. I’ll forever look back at my time at Herrera as a golden age. The harmony of our team, the beauties we gave birth to as you use to say, and mostly the love, friendship and laughter we enjoyed on a daily basis. It was pure heaven with Mrs. H. presiding over all of it like a queen. It is the end of an era but we’re on to new and exciting ventures, writing our next chapters but better people for the amazing experience we shared. xxxxJ