Carolina Herrera, the most elegant woman in fashion, has been making poise look divinely effortless for 35 years. In reality, her success demands constant organization, a meticulous eye, and the foresight to know what’s next. “You can never rely on the past,” she says. “You need to work for the times we live in.”
At 7 a.m.: Tea Off
When my husband, Reinaldo, and I wake up, I have breakfast in bed. I’m having something that I really love now: I call it the cappuccino tea. Because I don’t drink coffee, I use English breakfast tea made with the foam and cinnamon. Try it. You don’t know how delicious it is! I have English muffins, and the dogs used to come in with the tray and sit on the bed in front of me, but these days I have only Marcus, a boxer who acts like a poodle.
At 9 a.m.: Ten Percent Inspiration
I still go into the office every day. I have fittings or an interview, but I work on the collections almost all the time, because nowadays they happen every two or three months. I have to be on top of the whole thing, because what else can I do? It’s not like I’m going to sit in a dark room and think of an idea. I have to have my imagination always working, and my eyes open. It’s fun!
At 12 p.m.: Ninety Percent Perspiration
I have my atelier next to the office, which is the most amazing thing, because I don’t have to send anything to be made outside New York. If I want to change something, it can be done in-house, and watching my team gives me a lot of inspiration too. If the design doesn’t work, we just make another one.
At 2 p.m.: Staying Connected
I speak to my four daughters [Mercedes, Ana Luisa, Carolina, and Patricia] every day. Patricia works here, and she’s been busy on the 35th anniversary exhibition, so I see her more than the others. We are a very close family. The girls are very close. The 12 grandchildren are very close to each other as well. I have four great-grandchildren, and No. 5 is arriving in September. They come here all the time, and the whole family gets together in December.
At 4 p.m.: Head Space
I walk around the reservoir in Central Park every day for one hour in the afternoon when I go home. Now it’s better when it’s not so dark out. I walk all the way, and sometimes I go up Fifth Avenue to 120th Street. I think about many things. It’s the best, because you need silence in life, and to be alone is so important because that is when you put your thoughts together. Sometimes I even use the time to pray.
At 7 p.m.: Evening Obligations
Of course, I go out, but not every night. I give dinners in my house. The biggest is for 12 people, but I like to have six to eight because then you can talk to everyone. And my favorite evening is when I am able to stay home. I read. I watch TV. Last night I watched the series that I am in love with, The Night Manager. I went to bed at 2 in the morning, when I had seen all the episodes I could.
Whenever young women tell me they cannot have children because then they cannot go to work, I say yes you can, if you organize yourself very well. Balance is always in discipline. And I give them some very good advice: When you leave work, close the door and don’t talk about it anymore until the next day, because you cannot bother your husband, your children, and the people around you. Never talk about business at dinner.
WHAT I LISTEN TO
I am a great admirer of country music. I think it’s fabulous. I love Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. I was in Nashville in May, and I was amazed when I saw they opened the bars at 11 o’clock in the morning with new bands and singers performing all over.
WHERE I GO IN NYC
You have to go to the Greek and Roman galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. They are to die for. Someone once asked me what I would like to have in my house, and I said the statue of Alexander the Great, the one with no nose—so beautiful.
WHERE I TRAVEL
When I was 8 years old, my nanny brought me to the Prado, in Madrid, and the first thing she showed me was the triptychs of Hieronymus Bosch. There are so many little figures that I have never forgotten. Every single time I’m there, I go see them, and this year is the fifth centenary exhibition.
YOU CAN’T SPELL “CHIC” WITHOUT HER
Herrera’s latest handbag, the Baret, is named for another intrepid woman, 18th-century explorer Jeanne Baret. “It looks rich and makes people dream they are going to different places too,” Herrera says. Also new from CH Carolina Herrera is a design on bracelets and rings that twists her monogram into a subtle emblem. (The C is visible from one angle, the H from another.) “You don’t recognize it right away, do you?” she asks. “I cannot go around with a big CH all over me.”
Celebrating Herrera’s 35th anniversary, Savannah College of Art and Design is hosting a retrospective at its galleries in Savannah and Atlanta through September. “Refined Irreverence” shows off red-carpet looks worn by Taylor Swift and Renée Zellweger, along with gowns so timeless you could still wear them now. “I always say I don’t work in the fashion business,” Herrera says. “I work in the beauty business, because I want the women who wear Herrera to feel beautiful.”