The ladies who lunch couldn't pick at a salad leaf without Carolina Herrera.
Turning out refined day looks and eveningwear since 1981, the house of Herrera specializes in classic shapes (lean trousers, pencil skirts, A-line ball dresses, and nipped-waist jackets) stitched up in soigné silk faille and jacquard, luxurious taffeta and mink. In recent seasons, Oscar regulars like Renée Zellweger have splashed this most Park Avenue of labels with a starry dash of Hollywood Boulevard.
Carolina Herrera made a name for herself by dressing well before she began designing well. (And she is still recognized for her chic uniform of crisp white shirts and tailored black trousers.) She was born in 1939 to a family of Venezuelan aristocrats and, with her second husband, Reinaldo Herrera, partied with a coterie of 1970's jet-setters that included Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol. Herrera landed on the International Best-Dressed List time and again during those years, and was named to its Hall of Fame in 1980. The same year, propelled by friends Count Rudi Crespi and Diana Vreeland (who was so taken with Herrera's personal style she dubbed her "la bombe"), Herrera designed her first line of ready-to-wear as a "test." She aced it. Backed by the Venezuelan publishing prince Armando de Armas, the mother of four founded her company and began her new career in earnest in New York.
Herrera was named the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2004, and in 2008 the organization bestowed upon her the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award. Not one to rest on her laurels, she showed her elegant 2009 resortwear collection the day after the awards ceremony.
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June 17, 2009 12:00AM