Since the launch of her eponymous label in 1981, Carolina Herrera has won international acclaim for her signature sophistication. The established designer dressed high profile personalities such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Michelle Obama, and also featured on several "best dressed" lists in recognition of her inimitable personal style. Most known for her coveted ready-to-wear and bridal range, Herrera introduced diffusion line CH Carolina Herrera in 2001. Having launched her first boutique in Madison in New York in 2000, Herrera since founded over 18 boutiques around the world, with a retail presence of over 280 individual stores.
After 37 years, Herrera announced in February 2018, that she was stepping down as creative director of her label. The 80-year-old transitioned to a "global brand ambassador" role after her final runway show in New York. Wes Gordon, a designer with his own label who also served as her creative consultant, took over as designer.
Herrera began her career in 1965 working as a publicist for Emilio Pucci , a close family friend, in his boutique in Caracas, Venezuela. Moving to New York in 1980, Herrera’s personal élan and stylish sartorial choices quickly won her attention from New York socialites and the budding designer was inducted into the Best Dressed Hall of Fame, having previously won the International Best Dressed award in 1972. A regular at hotspot Studio 54, Herrera assumed friendships with Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland, who encouraged Herrera to design her own collection. Having made samples in Caracas, Herrera showcased the designs in Manhattan and, following a positive response, enlisted external funding through Venezuelan publisher Armando de Armas.
Herrera debuted her first catwalk presentation at New York’s exclusive Metropolitan Club in 1981 and by 1986 had introduced her first diffusion line CH, followed by a fragrance deal with Puig in 1987 and a bridal range in 1988. In 1995, Herrera’s label was acquired in its entirety by Puig, with the group retaining her as creative director of the brand.
Throughout her decades-long career, Herrera has been presented with a series of industry accolades such as the the Lifetime Achievement Award from the CFDA in 2008 and the Womenswear Designer of the Year award in 2004. Herrera is also a recipient of The International Centre in New York's Award of Excellence and in 2002 was presented with Spain's Gold Medal for Merit in the Fine Arts by King Don Juan Carlos I. The celebrated designer had also previously been awarded a Gold Medal from the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute in 1997.
Herrera served as a member of the board of directors of Mimi So, an international jewellery designer and also served as an ambassador for the American Cancer Society and the Intergovermental Institution.